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BALDWIN HOME MUSEUM:
A LOOK AT MISSIONARY LIFE IN A HAWAIIAN VILLAGE

Baldwin House Museum Lahaina Maui

The oldest house still standing on the island of Maui, Baldwin Home is a recognizable landmark in the heart of historic Lahaina. The original four-room, single level structure was built by Reverend Ephraim Spaulding between 1834-35 in what was then referred to as the “missionary compound.” This area offered a direct view to the Lahaina landing and roadstead beyond where whaling ships would anchor.

When Rev. Spaulding became ill in 1836 and returned to Massachusetts, a medical missionary, Reverend Dwight Baldwin, and his family who had been living in a grass hale (hut) in the compound moved into the home … and the legacy of a Maui pioneer began.

Newlyweds when they embarked, Baldwin and his wife Charlotte Fowler traveled by ship from New England around South America’s Cape Horn on a six-month voyage to the island of O‘ahu. They were assigned to Hawai‘i Island first, arriving on Maui in 1835. The couple had eight children, all born in Hawai‘i, although two children died of dysentery before the age of three.

As their family grew, so did the house. In 1840, a bedroom and medical study were added and in 1849, an entire second floor was completed, which is the structure you see today. The home faces prevailing winds from the ocean with larger windows in the front, consists of 24-inch thick walls (constructed of coral, sand and lava rock with rough-hewn timber framing) and high ceilings, keeping the interior cool.

Remnants of the kitchen’s foundation and firepit in the rear yard provide a snapshot of the extent to which the family used the outdoors for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and clothes, gardening and raising farm animals. Of course, there was no indoor plumbing back then. Landscaping in this compound included kukui and kou trees along with bananas, breadfruit, figs and a grape arbor. Surrounded by a freshwater stream and next to an artesian well, the home was self-sustaining.

The Baldwins led a busy, vibrant life in Lahaina, opening their home to weary travelers and ship captains to stay as overnight guests. They often received members of Hawai‘i’s royal court and visiting consuls in their home, which was always a bustling center of activity.

Rev. and Mrs. Baldwin lived in Lahaina through 1868 then moved to O‘ahu to retire near their daughter. Charlotte Baldwin died at the age of 67 years and Dwight Baldwin lived until the ripe old age of 88 years.

Rev. Baldwin was a graduate of Harvard College’s Medical School and Auburn Seminary. As Lahaina’s minister, he also served the islands of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and Maui as government physician, dentist and veterinarian. You can see the tools of his trade in the extension that was his medical office.
Mrs. Baldwin taught sewing classes here.
Charlotte Baldwin taught children’s lessons and  women’s sewing classes at home.
(This photo is from the 20th century.)

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EVERLASTING TRIBUTE

Baldwin Home was deeded to Lahaina Restoration Foundation in 1967 by the Baldwin heirs. It was restored to a mid-19th century design based on careful documentation and archaeological research. Inside are original photographs and artifacts as well as donated furniture and furnishing pieces representing the 1850s period. Baldwin Home Museum is recorded in the Historical American Buildings Survey located in the Library of Congress archives. It will remain in the public domain in perpetuity as a fascinating tribute to Dr. Baldwin and his outstanding contributions to the Maui community.

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“From the landing straight up to and across the main street was a hand pump, and during the season, sailors were rolling huge casks for water, and steadily on for weeks that hand pump worked night and day, the sound reaching our house.”
–Baldwin daughter describing in a letter how whalers would use their water pump

Click on the short video below to learn how Rev. Baldwin inoculated the people of Maui Nui with a smallpox vaccine to prevent deaths from the smallpox epidemic of 1853: