MASTERS’ READING ROOM:
THE OFFICERS’ CLUB OF LAHAINA
As whaling ships, with their officers, mates and crew, began to arrive in droves and anchor in the calm roadstead of Lahaina to reprovision, town officials saw the need for ship captains to have a meeting room. So in June of 1833, Lahaina missionaries resolved to build a reading room, or gentlemen’s club retreat. They would stock it with publications, newspapers and writing materials so officers from ships could catch up on news and record in their logs.
The American Mission agreed to contribute $200 and asked the public for additional support. A written request, co-signed by Reverends Richards and Spaulding, was presented to visitors, asking for gifts of any kind to further the endeavor. Some of the whalers offered money, but many donated gifts such as a looking glass, pitcher, soap, chairs, planks and a spyglass.
The most lucrative gifts were bolts of cloth and barrels of whale oil. While the oil was sold to light the lamps of Lahaina, western cloth was used to pay for labor. These two commodities alone contributed $534.50 to the project with a length of fabric (30 yards) valued at $7.50 and a barrel of whale oil at $15. Soon, construction began in the missionary compound.
Lava rock, field stone, coral to be cut into bricks, lime and sand were obtained locally. Some wood for construction was imported and some was obtained from Hana in East Maui. Hawaiian natives collected the rock and coral and did the masonry work. By May 27,1834, Masters’ Reading Room was completed and still stands today next to the Baldwin Home.
Its upper level was exclusively for the use and comfort of ship masters, and the lower level was used as a storeroom. An observatory was set up on one side with a spyglass from which officers could watch activities at the small harbor and in the village. The rooms were large and cool and visited at all hours of the day. Lahaina’s officers’ club was a social success for the next twelve years. When more facilities became available in Lahaina, the building was put up for auction and Rev. Dr. Dwight Baldwin purchased it in 1846.
Lahaina Restoration Foundation has restored and maintained the Masters’ Reading Room for decades. There are shops on the ground floor. The second floor is closed to the public but available for the LRF Board of Directors meetings. It is part of the Historic American Buildings Survey in the Library of Congress.
We appeal to your generosity to help build “suitable reading rooms for the accommodation of seamen who visit Lahaina, as well as a convenient place of retirement from the heat and unpleasant dust of the market.”
– Rev. William Richards and Rev. Ephraim Spaulding