BY Roni Marley, REALTOR (B) – Beholding a historical mystique of its own magnitude, a 100+-acre estate located in Kealia on Kauai’s East side (MLS# 256415) carries with it a past vividly dressed in local folklore, industrial enterprise, Hollywood legend, and Hawaiian nostalgia.
In a series of blogs over the coming days, we will explore from origin to present day one of Hawaii’s most extraordinary estates — a property that:
- Has carried international repute for its graciousness and quietude
- Was the sight of Kauai’s first major hotel
- Has been the focal point of the Hollywood’s silver screens
- Still today echoes vestiges of Old Hawaii
Through this narrative voyage we will learn of the numerous owners, occupants and dwellers of the estate, none more important than the original owner, Col. Z.S. Spalding. Thus begins our exploration of the Valley House Estate…
I. Origins: 1837-1879
Colonel Zephaniah Swift Spalding was born at Warren, Ohio, near Akron, September 7, 1837. The eldest son of the Honorable Rufus Paine Spalding — Representative and Speaker of the House of the Ohio Legislature, Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio and member of the U.S. Congress — Col. Z.S. Spalding spent his early years in Ohio getting educated and finding work in his father’s law office and for the Northern Transportation Company, where in 1860 he was transferred to New York.
In 1861, with the breakout of the Civil War, Col. Spalding was sent to Washington to defend the Capitol, and soon thereafter back to Ohio to raise the 27th Ohio Regiment, with which he served the remainder of the war. Though he followed his duties to the end, Col. Spalding’s impressions of the war were that of a tragedy that saw “brother pitted against brother.”
After the war, having been given a battlefield promotion as Lt. Colonel at the age of 25, he was well decorated but ill suited for much in realm of professional skills. In 1867, President Andrew Johnson was considering a reciprocity treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii, as an alternative to a financial annexation resembling that of the Alaska Territory around the same time. It’s suspected that one potential reason for this was the foothold the Russian’s already had in the Islands.
As a result, Secretary of State Seward was looking for someone to go to Hawaii and report back on the political and economic implications of such a treaty. Since Col. Spalding’s father was a friend of Seward’s from Congress, it was to be that Col. Spalding would fill this roll. In September of 1867 Col. Z.S. Spalding left Ohio for Honolulu as a ‘secret agent’, under the guise of a prospective cotton planter.
Soon thereafter his arrival to Honolulu, Col. Spalding’s ‘secret agent’ status was uncovered, though this seemed to cause little disturbance for within a couple of years he was in business with King Kalakaua. Perhaps having been sent there by the King to explore possible sugarcane enterprises,Col. Spalding wound up on Maui and met Captain James Makee, owner of a large sugarcane plantation there.
From the start, Capt. Makee liked the young Colonel, as did his daughters, the oldest of whom, Wilhelmina, married Col. Spalding on July 18, 1871, at Ulupalakua, Maui. The next few years were spent raising Catharine and Rufus, the first two of their five children, on Maui and in Honolulu.
In 1875, for reasons unknown Col. Spalding moved his family to San Francisco, where Julia was born in 1876. Though thought to be a permanent move, it’s speculated that the reciprocity treaty between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii officially becoming effective in September of 1876 reignited a spark in Col. Spalding, prompting him to change his mind and move back to the Islands in 1878, where he took up residence on Kauai.
With his return brought the birth of not only their fourth child, Alice, but also the beginning of the biggest industrial era on Kauai to date and the origins of one of Hawaii’s most prized estates, the Valley House Estate.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this historical narrative of the Valley House Estate.