It was a hot day and I navigated to the refresingly cool climes of Olinda, past the lavender lamps of jacaranda near King Kekaulike High School, the red cottages of Haleakala Ranch, the four white horses grazing along Hanamu Road, to the parking lot at Oskie Rice Arena overflowing with hundreds of cars.
A blissfully refreshing breeze stirred the tall eucalyptus as I made my way through the white obelisk pillars of the old estate at "Maunalei," to Seabury Hall's 39th annual craft fair before Mother's Day. (I know, it's graduation now.)
C.W. Dickey, the famed Hawaiian architect, built the house - now the school's administration building - for Gail Baldwin in 1928, who named it for the ring of clouds that form at the 8,000-foot inversion layer on Haleakala. Gail was a socialite, wife of Dr. William Baldwin, one of the sons of sugar plantation entrepreneur Henry Perrine Baldwin and his wife, Emily Alexander.
(William was content to live at the family home at the foot of Kokomo Road in Haiku, the manager's residence for Haiku Sugar Co. since 1858, where Lili'uokalani was feted in 1891 shortly after she became queen. They remodeled the classic old plantation home some -owned by a wealthy family, it's unrecognizable now - but Gail hated to ride in automobiles and the perilous route across Maliko Gulch terrified her. Besides, she wanted a place where she could entertain.)
Down the long driveway, flanked by high cypress, proud parents manned the entry, happy to support the school's annual fundraiser to benefit its financial aid program. With tuition at approximately $17,000 a year, "It's crucial," said Joy Gorman, whose son, Jon, a former student body president, received assistance. "That's why I'm here. As long as I'm on Maui, I'll support the craft fair."
This is the second largest event of its kind on the Maui calendar, next to the Maui County Fair. This year it featured 106 booths, things to please the eye and the other senses, diaphanous gowns, Niihau shells, lovely soaps.
I liked looking at the beautiful mango wood chests by Pacific Millworks. I approved of the bamboo T-shirts, grown and milled in China, distributed by Marc Siegel. I loved the No Ka Oi Nut Co.'s "Bavarian roasted" nuts, made without oil (only sugar, vanilla, cinnamon) in a $4,000 machine.
I really approved of the clever homemade cupcakes sold down at the (boarded-up) reflecting pool, in front of the administration building, where people eating pastries sat at tables.
The tables there afforded a good view of the eccentric residence that Dickey designed with input from Gail Baldwin, decidedly out of character for him. Dickey was an Alexander, a Baldwin cousin, celebrated for his flowing indoor-outdoor designs, but Gail's house was a queer marriage of a Spanish villa with a New England barn.
Gail was a nurse from New York, as full of social pretensions as her husband was not. People in the family recoiled from her sharp tongue - "She never had anything nice to say about anybody," a relative once told me - and could be quite condescending.
"Where's Gail?" guests asked upon arriving for a dinner party. "Oh, she's not feeling well," was the response. After dessert, the elaborately dressed Japanese maid who served them revealed herself to be none other than the hostess.
The home contained two huge formal living rooms, each approximately 40 by 20 feet. The family lived upstairs, and the furniture in the formal room downstairs was always shrouded unless a party was in the works.
Mrs. Charles Cooper purchased the house in 1945, and in 1958 she bequeathed it to the Episcopal Church for a school, an excellent use of all that space.
The back lanai looks out onto a sweeping view of mountains and sea, the malls of Kahului far below. Last year it was a stage on which George Kahumoku Jr. performed, a sweeter use of the space, I thought, with the food booths below. This year it was all about the silent auction business.
Nearby, the cotton candy, shave ice and popcorn machines provided no charge by Ryan Ouye ground away. He's a parent, of course, giving back. "It's hard work, but it's fun."
The sun falls low in the sky. Fathers in the cleanup crew await their turn to pitch in. The people in the golf cart taxis ferry the weary back up the hill to their cars.
I enjoy walking the grounds of this grand old estate once a year, getting a taste of how Gail Baldwin lived. I would have done it differently.