It’s no secret that Haiku Mill is a spectacular private venue, but did you know it holds an interesting place in Hawaii’s history too? To explain more, we have to take you back in time to the 1800s when the sugar industry reigned supreme.
The Sugar Industry in Hawaii
Before Hawaii became part of the United States and tourism was introduced, agriculture was the state’s leading economic activity. It provided Hawaii’s major sources of employment, tax revenues, and capital through exports.
Sugar was the top crop, and the sugar industry steered Hawaii’s politics and economy for over a century.
Like any industry, sugar had its ups and downs. A few things caused the sugar industry in the Hawaiian islands to explode. In the 1840s, steamships provided a reliable way to transport sugarcane from the islands to the mainland. The California gold rush increased demand.
Production slowed when California became a state in 1850 and created an import tariff that taxed exports of sugar cane and other goods to the United States, but it ramped back up during the American Civil War. Much of the sugar production in the United States occurred in the southern states that seceded from the Union. With the North no longer receiving sugar from the South, the price of sugar during the Civil War rose a staggering 525 percent, from 4 cents a pound in 1861 to 25 cents a pound in 1864.
In 1875, the U.S. made a reciprocity treaty with the Hawaiian Kingdom, eliminating all tariffs on sugar and rice in exchange for Hawaii eliminating all tariffs on cotton and other American products. Eliminating export taxes caused sugar production in Hawaii to skyrocket.
However, the reciprocity treaty laid the groundwork for the Hawaiian islands’ eventual annexation. When the treaty was renewed in 1887, the United States received exclusive rights to enter and establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor.
How Sugar Created Hawaii’s Diversity
A lot of labor is needed to grow, harvest, and process sugarcane. Since the sugar industry required a larger labor force, workers were recruited from overseas. Immigrant workers arrived in waves from China, Japan, and the Philippines. A smaller number of people also came from Korea, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Germany, Norway, Russia, and Spain.
When they arrived, workers were assigned to sugar plantations throughout the islands and given housing separated by ethnic groups. In order to communicate with each other, they created a language called Pidgin English, a blend of all their languages and English, spoken in the present tense with most verbs disregarded. Pidgin is still spoken to this day and was recognized as an official language of Hawaii by the U.S. Census in 2015.
Over 330,000 people came to work the sugar plantations in Hawaii. While many of them returned home once their contracts were up, thousands remained in the islands, sharing their cultures and creating the melting pot that Hawaii is today.
Sugarcane continued to be Hawaii’s main economy, employing one out of every 12 people in Hawaii, until it started to decline in 1959. This is when Hawaii became a state, and the U.S. started to market Hawaii as a tourist destination.
History of Haiku Sugar Mill
The Hawaiian islands are formed from volcanic mountains, some of which are still considered active. Due to the rugged terrain and the nature of soil, only certain low lands near coasts are tillable. Therefore, Hawaii’s sugar companies were all located along the coastlines of the four largest islands, extending into the foothills and upward along mountain slopes.
Haiku is located on the north shore of Maui, approximately 14 miles (22.5 km) east of Kahului. These days, the town of about 8,500 is mostly inhabited by locals, and visitors usually only breeze through when starting their journey on the Road to Hana. However, Haiku was once a hub of sugar production.
The Haiku Sugar Company started in 1858 and was the first sugar enterprise in Hawaii to raise capital through stock. The construction of Haiku Sugar Mill was completed in 1861 and became the first to process sugarcane using a steam engine, cutting edge technology for its time.
Haiku Sugar Mill was the leading sugar processor on Maui for eighteen years, from 1861 to 1879.
The construction of an irrigation system from 1876 to 1878 allowed water to be transported from the wet slopes of Haleakala to the fertile but dry plains of the central Maui isthmus. The increased water flow allowed sugar production to be moved and Haiku Sugar Mill was subsequently abandoned in 1879.
Restoration of Haiku Mill
The abandoned sugar mill was left to deteriorate for over one hundred years. By the time it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, only the stone walls remained and they were overgrown with vegetation.
Inspired to preserve this piece of Hawaiian history, Sylvia Hamilton-Kerr purchased the property and embarked on a journey to restore the ruins of the old sugar factory to the enchanting hidden gem it is today.
Design of the space took cues from its past and the surrounding land. The Haiku area of Maui is lush and green. Instead of fighting this, vines were encouraged to drape the walls. Greenery is prevalent throughout the property and inside the Mill itself, giving magical secret garden vibes.
Restoration was also influenced by the unpretentious lifestyle of the south of France. Antique cast iron columns hold up a glass ceiling that lets in light and keeps you covered in case of rain. A beautiful chandelier hangs above the picturesque proposal spot.
The result is the perfect combination of rich Hawaiian history combined with Old World European elegance nestled in the tropical jungle of Maui. Upon its transformation, the property was given the simpler name of Haiku Mill, also known as Pua Le’a or “blossoming passion” in Hawaiian.
Why We Love Haiku Mill Proposals
If you’ve read everything above, you’ll understand why Haiku Mill is so special and one of a kind. Years of hard work went into transforming the old ruins into a beautiful open-sky cathedral.
Haiku Mill is a private venue, which means when you choose a Haiku Mill package for your proposal, the space is reserved especially for you. This makes Haiku Mill a top contender for anyone who wants an intimate proposal without other people around.
Our directions for proposing at Haiku Mill are pretty simple. You walk into the Mill and get down on one one knee under the chandelier.
Planning a proposal can be a nerve-wracking time. We’re here to help with all the planning and alleviate your stress, but sometimes nerves can be hard to shake. If you feel like you might be a nervous wreck, having a location with simple instructions like Haiku Mill might help you feel better.
Haiku Mill is naturally stunning and doesn’t need any extra decor. However if you want to add flowers to your proposal, Haiku Mill is a blank space that is easy to dress up.
One thing to note though, is due to the age and history of the structure, nothing can be affixed to the structure and we can’t do anything too risky. For example, we once had a client who was interested in a soccer-themed proposal. This wasn’t a good fit for Haiku Mill because of the risk of a wayward soccer ball causing damage.
The layout of the property also allows us to incorporate surprises before or after the proposal.
For Rich’s proposal to Bao, he arranged for her sisters and best friend to be waiting at Haiku Mill before their arrival. We had a table and chairs set up for the couple to sit at before they entered the Mill. One by one, Bao’s loved ones surprised her with different colored roses and a letter from Rich. Each color of roses had a symbolism explained in his letters.
After each person handed Bao their letter and roses, they went into Haiku Mill, using a separate entrance so they could witness the proposal from above.
When it was time to propose, Rich led Bao into Haiku Mill where a violinist played in the background when he got down on bended knee on a scattering of red rose petals.
Josh and Kimi came to Maui from Oahu. Since they live on Oahu and there’s no shortage of pretty beaches there, Josh knew he wanted something different for his proposal location. She thought they were flying over for a Maui adventure, but he actually planned the trip around when he could propose at Haiku Mill.
Josh wanted to incorporate this gorgeous ring box filled with roses that looked and smelled amazing. Since we have a policy of not handling the engagement ring, we came up with a way to use the box without putting Kimi’s engagement ring inside.
He led Kimi into the Mill and to the floral ring box where Kimi read a note asking her to dance. Once she read the note, Josh opened the ring box to take out a bluetooth speaker that was already paired to his phone. He started playing “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. They danced together for a minute and he proposed during the song.
Aron and Julia are a blended family. He has two boys and she has two girls. They have a daughter together and another baby on the way.
Aron proposed to Julia with the kids watching, but it was also important for him to ask Julia’s daughters if he could officially be part of the family. After some family portraits, Aron proposed to the girls with their own rings. It was the sweetest!
Our Proposal Packages at Haiku Mill
Engaged on Maui has two proposal packages designed for Haiku Mill – our Haiku Mill Mini and Haiku Mill Deluxe.
The Haiku Mill Mini package is meant for a proposal and short engagement session at the Mill. The 30 minute time span is just long enough to enjoy all the beauty Haiku Mill has to offer.
The Haiku Mill Deluxe package is the best of both worlds. With this package, you get 1.5 hours of time and two locations. You can have the privacy and lush grandeur of Haiku Mill for your proposal and end your session at a nearby beach for engagement photos that show off Hawaii.
Ready to pop the question at the gorgeous Haiku Mill? Let us help you with that! Fill out our inquiry form to get started!