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Published on Nov 1, 2008
The grand tradition of hostelling at the edge of Kilauea Volcano began with construction of the first Volcano House in 1846; as such, Volcano House is Hawaiis oldest continuously operated hotel. Famous Guests include Queen Lilioukalani, Samuel Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. Since Polynesians first arrived in Hawaii, temporary grass shacks had been constructed on the lip of Kilauea Crater to shelter kahuna and alii who went there to give praise and worship to Madame Pele. Chiefess Kapiolani, a converted Christian, had a grass hut constructed on the edge of the crater, then filled with a molten lava lake, in 1826 from which she and her retinue held ceremonies to denounce the goddess.
Benjamin Pitmann Sr. built a grass shack he named Volcano House as the first structure to serve solely for the sheltering of kamaaina and tourists visiting the volcano. In 1866, this structure was replaced with one of ohia poles and pili grass. American novelist and humorist Sam Clemens, who stayed at Volcano House in 1866 proclaimed: The surprise of finding a good hotel at such as outlandish spot startled me, considerably more than the volcano did.
In 1877 the first fully wooden Volcano House was built, which featured 6 rooms and a large parlor with a fireplace; this building is now being used as the Volcano Art Center and was moved to its present location in 1941. Although the hotel has continued to grow and change over the years, the fire in Volcano House fireplace has burned continuously for 125 years. In 1940 most of the hotel was destroyed in a boiler fire and Uncle George Lycurgus built the structure that stands as the current hotel in 1941 of wood and stone.
A tour of the Volcano House and small museum should include the parlor with its koa piano, paintings and welcoming fireplace, the restaurant (the only food available in the Park) and the two gift shops as well as the breath-taking view of Kilauea Crater from the back lanai of the main building.
Produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess, Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan.
For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com, www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com and www.lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com.