Community members involved in the Spencer house project, from left, Sherm Warner, Patti Cook, Bill Sanborn, Paul Johnston, and Bob Bonar, meet in one of the rooms of the historical home. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Patti Cook and Sherm Warner examine one of the pieces of furniture remaining in the historical Spencer house. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
From left, involved community members Paul Johnston, Bill Sanborn, and Bob Bonar stand in one of the rooms of the historical Spencer house in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Paul Johnston points out wide beams that indicate where an addition had been made to the historical Spencer home, which at one point was a hotel. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Paul Johnston peers through a small opening built into a room in the Spencer House. Built in the mid 1800’s, the home has a variety of unique features. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Paul Johnston, left, and Bob Bonar look out from the upper balcony of the historic Waimea Spencer home. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
From left, Paul Johnston, Bill Sanborn, and Bob Bonar, examine the unique high ceiling in one of the rooms of the Spencer home. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Bob Bonar shows a large koa cabinet built in the historic Spencer home in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Community members involved in the Spencer house project, clockwise from top left, Paul Johnston, Bob Bonar, Bill Sanborn, Patti Cook, Sherm Warner, and Lauren Avery, stand on the balconies of the historic Spencer home in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
No one is sure exactly what year the historic Spencer House was built, but it is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Waimea town, constructed between 1843 and 1850. The structure located next to McDonald’s has served as a private residence, a hotel, and has been home to a restaurant, design firm, law office and other commercial businesses.
“This building was once called the Pickerton Hotel,” said Paul Johnston, Waimea Community Association board member. “It housed dignitaries who passed through Waimea. The reason it is called the Spencer House, is because the third owner was the Spencer family.”
Now it’s the community’s turn to help decide what will be done with the almost 20-room Spencer House in what is considered to be the “town center.”
Waimea Preservation Association is hosting a tour and gathering at the Spencer House, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., on Sunday, July 21. Free to the public, WPA is inviting everyone to bring memories and stories of the home, and to meet with community service organizations.
The WPA has found that an opportunity has arisen for “buying time” from the people who lease the house, and they hope to take Spencer House off the market for a year to decide what the best use for it would be.
“We need to raise $65,000 by the end of August which will give us a year to plan,” Johnston said. “We’ve had 52 people pledge $18,000 so far, and the funds will help with the rent, utilities, insurance and some needed repairs.”
Sherman Warner, long-time Waimea resident and WPA volunteer, said through working with WPA, the Waimea Community Association and other non-profit groups, what he sees is needed in Waimea is meeting space. Patti Cook, also a WPA volunteer, added that the project team is open to all ideas and suggestions, but said, “The intention is clear — to fashion a plan that benefits our community and helps shape its future.”
Because the Spencer House is considered a landmark in Waimea, the WPA volunteers all stressed the importance of not only finding ways to preserve “this historic treasure,” but also finding ways to serve the community. One possibility for future use of Spencer House would be as a center for community service programs.
Pete Hendricks, a longtime Waimea resident and WPA volunteer said, “It’s been about 25 or 30 years now that we have talked about having a Waimea educational center. This could be an attribute of the use of the Spencer House.”
The idea is that the Spencer House could provide a home for various non-profit groups, and many other clubs and organizations, to meet, give out information and serve the community, from keiki to kupuna.
Another possibility is to host a “Welcome Center,” a place where visitors and kama’aina alike, could go for information about the town and area. Because there is so much to see and do in Waimea and its surrounds, Johnston said it could be an informational center for visitors to learn about the history, walking tours, local attractions and neighboring towns.
“We could have a place where people learn where they can go for farms tours, or find out about how Waimea transformed from ancient times to Camp Tarawa to our present,” Johnston said.
“This is such a magical place with so much history,” Cook said. “We have residents who possess extraordinary cultural, agricultural, environmental, health-wellness, economic and recreational ‘ike (knowledge and wisdom). These beg to be shared and new partnerships nurtured. Perhaps Spencer House could play a role in this?”
It’s clear the longtime volunteers of WPA and the Waimea Community Association are passionate about creating a meeting place for the community. The efforts are grassroots, using all volunteer expertise, time and energy to gain support from the people of Waimea.
Bill Sanborn, WPA president, said the WPA has had to be “very inventive” in its efforts to raise funds, because the opportunity to lease it came up suddenly.
“Our fundraising efforts are to ask people to sponsor the house for a day at $40 a day. Or donate $960 for a week, or $4,000 for a month,” Johnston said.
But every dollar counts, and any donation is welcome. Because the Spencer House is completely empty now, the $65,000 needed to hold the structure open for a year until its use is determined, must be raised quickly. In only two weeks, the WPA was able to get pledges from people ranging from $50 to $6,000. Half of the amount, about $35,000, is hoped to be secured from small grassroots community donations; the remaining funds from larger funders.
The committee members met last week at the Spencer House for a walk through of the building as well as to discuss plans for the open house. The building has a new exterior paint job, and the interior is a maze of rooms, staircases and additional extensions. The handblown glass windows have settled, and the distortion in the glass panes give the place even more character.
On the front door, one of the board members pointed out a tiny etching in one of the door panes. “Boy Blue 1888” is engraved in careful, cursive writing, and local lore says this was engraved by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, his nickname being “Boy Blue.”
Upstairs, some of the volunteers open a small attic door, and find the unpainted koa wood still in good condition. An antique metal stand is retrieved, as well as artwork, rugs and other items, most likely left behind by past tenants.
“It’s so important that we preserve the Spencer House,” Bonar said. “We’re not sure what it will be in the long term, but right now it’s a rare opportunity for us to decide what to do with it.”
At the open house on July 21, WPA and other non-profits will be present to take in ideas, share information and collect any donations, small or large. Tea and cookies will be served and tours will be given. It is a great opportunity for the community to visit the gracious historical Spencer House, and to offer their input and ideas into what will be next in the history of the Spencer House.
For more information, visit www.WaimeaPreservation.org or call Paul Johnston at 938-4540.