The Volcano House Story – Restoring History to Hawai‘i’s Oldest – and Newest – Hotel

The beloved Volcano House will fully reopen on the rim of Kīlauea caldera in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park next month, following a multi-million dollar upgrade and completing yet another chapter in the epic history of this iconic hotel.

NPS Photo by Jay Robinson

NPS Photo by Jay Robinson

Soon, guests will stroll through the lobby, where polished concrete floors of deep jade have been restored to their 1940s luster, and into the Grand Lounge. Flames from the original lava rock fireplace will warm the lobby and cast flickering light upon the imposing bronze of volcano goddess Pele, sculpted by Honolulu artist Marguerite Blassingame. A few more steps will reveal an expansive, comfortably appointed sitting room with spectacular views of Kīlauea and fuming Halema‘uma‘u Crater beyond large picture glass windows.

While temporary shelters on Kīlauea predate the 1824 grass hut built by Chiefess Kapi‘olani and her entourage, it was in 1846 that Hilo resident Benjamin Pitman, Sr. built a grass house, and christened it “Volcano House.” The name stuck, and the first substantial wooden structure to welcome guests at Kīlauea was built in 1877. (Eventually, this one-story building was relocated, repurposed, and currently houses the Volcano Art Center). Famed writers Mark Twain, Isabella Bird and Robert Louis Stevenson were among guests in the 1877 building, as were King David Kalākaua, and French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur.

The Volcano House in 1947, a historic landmark overlooking Kīlauea Crater, east side. NPS Photo

The Volcano House in 1947, a historic landmark overlooking Kīlauea Crater, east side. NPS Photo

In 1895, Greek-born George “Uncle George” Lycurgus acquired the Volcano House, and several structural evolutions ensued, including the construction of an ornate, two-story Victorian-inspired building that served many distinguished guests. Visitors included President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 (the first U.S. president to visit Hawai‘i), Amelia Earheart, and Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani.

In 1940, a fire from an oil burner destroyed the Victorian-style Volcano House. No lives were lost, but the entire hotel was a complete loss. Undaunted, Uncle George negotiated the construction of a new hotel with the park some 200 yards from its former site. In late 1941, the new Volcano House, designed by Maui-born architect Charles W. Dickey, was unveiled with great fanfare on the crater rim – and it is unveiled again in 2013 in the historic character of the 1940s. Uncle George’s name, flair for hospitality, and affinity towards volcano goddess Pele, will continue to define the character of Volcano House.

Historic photo taken February 1966. NPS Photo/Wm Robenstein.

Historic photo taken February 1966. NPS Photo/Wm Robenstein.

The 33-room hotel is owned by the National Park Service, and is managed under contract by Hawai‘i Volcanoes Lodge Company, LLC, who also manage Nāmakanipaio Campground and 10 A-frame cabins. While the views from Volcano House of the active volcano may be distracting, the careful observer will note the restoration of canec ceilings in the comfortable guest rooms, appointed with historic crown moldings. Prints by local artist Marian Berger of native birds in the Audubon style of the era adorn the walls. Original tiled hearths in three rooms were upgraded with electrical fireplaces.

Outside, two new decks overlook Kīlauea caldera. Indoors, guests can have a seat at the lovingly restored original koa wood bar in Uncle George’s Lounge, where another bronze sculpture depicting Pele’s vengeance graces a historic fireplace.

If Uncle George were alive today, perhaps he’d marvel over the coincidental return of Pele to her home at Halema‘uma‘u Crater, which began to erupt again in 2008, and to the return of guests to historic Volcano House.

2013 Hawaii Legislature Adjourns

The 27th Hawaii State Legislature ended today with members from the House and the Senate joining in the singing of Hawaii Aloha.

End of the Legislature. Photo by Micah Almeida

End of the Legislature. Photo by Micah Alameda

Before gaveling the session closed, House Speaker Joseph M. Souki acknowledged the work of everyone involved in the legislative process and summarized the session’s accomplishments. He said the approach this session was to focus on the State’s long term needs such as reducing long term fiscal liabilities, replenishing reserve funds, promoting economic development, education, sustainability and improving the quality of life for all residents.

The full text of his closing remarks are below:

We have come to the end of the 2013 Regular Session.  To the Leadership Team, the Chairs, Vice Chairs, and each and every member of the House, because of your unwavering commitment to do your best for the people of Hawaii, this was a productive session.

Thank you all, for working together and for doing a wonderful job.

I would like to especially thank the Majority Leader Scott Saiki and Finance Chair Sylvia Luke for your tremendous contributions and tireless efforts in moving us forward to this day.

To our Minority Leader Aaron Johanson and the Minority Caucus, thank you for bringing your ideas and perspective to the table to help us craft legislation for all of Hawaii’s people.  Thank you.

We began this session cautiously optimistic.  Our economy was on the rise, tourism was strong, and unemployment was down.  We needed to invest in programs and projects, and make strong investments in Hawaii’s future.

Economic Development:

We committed to the strengthening of our number one industry by making significant investment in the future of tourism.

We made permanent the current TAT rate and increased funding to aggressively market our visitor industry as we compete with other travel destinations.

We also kept the current level of support to the counties giving them fiscal continuity.

We passed a tax credit measure aimed at encouraging the presence of the film industry which returns a significant amount of revenue to the state.

Funding for capital improvement projects for state infrastructure will jumpstart economic growth on all islands.


To invest in our Keiki, we are funding the expansion of the Open Doors Program to provide day care opportunities for preschool aged children.

And to help provide funds for repair, maintenance, and additional classrooms and school facilities for our growing population, we have passed the 21st Century Schools bill to look at responsible partnerships to generate much needed revenue for our public schools.  But this will all be done with community and county input, and compliance with state and county requirements.

Now, on the question of early education – preschool – the public will have the chance to voice their opinion through a Constitutional Amendment on whether public funds should be used by private early childhood education programs.

Quality of Life:

In this session, we have also reaffirmed our commitment to our kupuna, the homeless, a sustainable and clean environment, and the local farming and feed industry.  We are taking care of needs today, and investing in our future.

Fiscal Responsibility:

During the past economic crisis, we had to borrow from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the Hurricane Relief Fund.  We made a promise that when the economy improved we would return that money.

Well, not only are we keeping that promise, we are providing additional money to recapitalize those funds.  And we have taken a big step in addressing the unfunded liability of our public workers.

And finally, we listened to the resounding voice of the people and moved quickly to repeal the Public Land and Development Corporation – PLDC.


Speaker Emeritus Say, I thank you for your years of leadership, fiscal restraint, and know how.  You and your Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro laid the foundation for much of what was achieved this year.

I would like to thank Senate President Donna Kim, her leadership team, the Senate Chairs and members who worked with us and collaborated as we worked to craft legislation for the people of Hawaii.

To the permanent and session staff of the House, thank you for professionalism and tireless efforts in supporting the work of the House.

I am deeply grateful to all of you.  It is an honor to serve as your Speaker, and I look forward to working together next session to serve the people of this State.

Thank you and God bless.



Hospice of Hilo Honors Its Volunteers During Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

National Volunteer Week was April 21 – 27, 2013 and Hospice of Hilo honored its core of dedicated volunteers who provide support, companionship and dignity to members of the community facing serious and life-limiting illness at its Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.

Hospice of Hilo honored it's volunteers last week.

Hospice of Hilo honored it’s volunteers last week.

“Volunteers have expressed their gratitude at being allowed to touch the hearts of Hospice of Hilo patients. They continue to set a great example of the honor and privilege of serving. We recognize, acknowledge and honor the 2000+ hours they have given in 2012 towards the service of the terminally ill,” said Hospice of Hilo Volunteer Manager, Pearl Lyman.

Hospice of Hilo volunteers often serve patients and families at the bedside but they also assist in the office, help raise awareness, contribute to educational programs, and provide fundraising support and more.

“They are truly the heart of our organization. We are so very grateful for all the volunteers give to ensure that each and every member of our community facing a life-limiting illness knows that they don’t have to face the journey alone and that with hospice care they can live better,” said Hospice of Hilo CEO, Brenda S. Ho.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reports that there are an estimated 450,000 hospice volunteers providing more than 21 million hours of service to hospice programs each year. More than 1.65 million patients in the U.S. are cared for by hospice every year.

“Helping others is what I like to do and I believe there is no better way than to be there for them when they are facing the end of life,” said Hospice of Hilo Volunteer, Susan Pauole.

If you are interested in becoming a Hospice of Hilo volunteer, please call Pearl at 808-969-1733. More information is also at

One Hawaii Senator Kills Media Shield Law – Senator Clayton Hee Goes on My Naughty Liar’s List

First amendment attorney Jeff Portnoy tells reporters that one Senator – Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee – killed Hawaii’s journalism shield law this 2013 legislative session even though it is considered one of the best in the country because of his distrust and disdain for the media.



Big Island Police Investigating Puna Road Rage Incident

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating an unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle case stemming from a road rage incident in Puna on Monday (April 29).

HPDBadgeAfter a traffic dispute around 6:45 p.m., the driver of a blue Honda sedan hurled objects at the victim’s car and forced it onto the shoulder of Highway 130 near the 4-mile marker. The suspect then reached into the victim’s vehicle and assaulted him.

The victim was driving a Champagne colored Honda sedan and heading toward Pāhoa.

Anyone who witnessed this incident or who has any information about this case is asked to call Officer Jenny Lee at 965-2716 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.


“Three Wise Monkeys” Campaign to Raise Awareness About Viral Hepatitis

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) in collaboration with Hep Free Hawaii is joining the global “Three Wise Monkeys” campaign to raise awareness about viral hepatitis both worldwide and within local communities. The three-month campaign which also includes in-language bus ads and radio spots on KNDI runs from May through July and coincides with National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 20, 2013, and World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2013. Both of these annual events are intended to raise awareness and support improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment for people living with chronic viral hepatitis B and C.

Three Wise Monkeys

The overall theme for World Hepatitis Day 2013 is “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,” as represented by the three wise monkeys, an old proverb that is commonly used to highlight how people often deal with problems by refusing to acknowledge them. The monkeys were chosen for the campaign to highlight that around the world and in Hawaii hepatitis is still being largely ignored.

According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, “We are calling for people to uncover their senses and confront the realities of hepatitis.” “Often called the silent epidemic, most people with hepatitis B or C don’t have symptoms for many years,” stated Loretta Fuddy, DOH Director of Health. “People with hepatitis B and C shouldn’t wait until they feel sick to be tested because there are many things, including treatment, they can do to take care of themselves before they become ill. The earlier people know they have hepatitis, the better the outcome.”

According to DOH Immunization Branch estimates, 1 to 3 percent of people in Hawaii have hepatitis B, and approximately 23,000 are living with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C are the most common known causes of liver cancer in Hawaii, and Hawaii has the highest rate of liver cancer in the United States.

Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with blood and body fluids. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone who has been exposed to blood through needle use, blood transfusion, non-sterile equipment, or tattooing should be tested for both hepatitis B and C. Anyone born in a country with high rates of hepatitis B, especially countries in Asia and the Pacific, should be screened for hepatitis B.

Three Wise Monkeys 2

Anyone born from 1945 to 1965 (“baby boomers”) should also get a one-time test for hepatitis C, regardless of any known risk. To join the campaign and take a photo with the three wise monkeys, contact Thaddeus Pham at or (808) 733-9298. To follow the monkeys on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or for more information about hepatitis resources and events in Hawaii, go to

Photos will also be shared on the DOH Facebook page at


State Awards Grants to Six Local Non-Profits to Address Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) with assistance from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is awarding six local non-profit, community groups grant funds to help address Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) and keep Hawaii’s shorelines clean. The focus is on potential debris originating from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011.

Beach Clean Ups

“The six grants totaling $100,000 complement ongoing efforts by community groups that are already working to address marine debris, including debris originating from the Japan tsunami,” said Gary Gill, deputy director of the DOH Environmental Health Administration. “For years Hawaii has depended on volunteers to keep marine debris off our beaches. Today, we are providing a little support for the very big job they do.”

The selected projects will help to reduce the impacts of marine debris from alien species, marine life entanglement, economic costs, and human health and safety.

The awardees are:

  • Surfrider Kauai, $25,000 (for Kauai County)
  • Hawaii Wildlife Fund, $20,000 (for Maui County)
  • Recycle Hawaii, $20,000 (for Hawaii County)
  • Surfrider Oahu, $13,000 (for Honolulu County)
  • Kupu, $11,000 (for Honolulu County)
  • Sustainable Coastlines, $11,000 (for Honolulu County)

The grant funds, which will be administered by the DOH, were provided by a $50,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and another $50,000 of matching funds contributed by DLNR. Selected proposals will reduce marine debris through beach cleanup and education activities that support ongoing habitat conservation in Hawaii coastal areas. Awardees and projects are located within the Kauai, Maui, Hawaii and Honolulu Counties with a focus on areas that typically receive the most marine debris. A map of these areas is available at Project selection was based in part on confirmed JTMD items and areas known to accumulate the most marine debris.

To date, there have been eight confirmed JTMD items in Hawaii and more than 1,700 reports of potential JTMD in the United States and Canada. The public is urged to report findings of potential JTMD to DLNR at (808) 587-0400 or, and to NOAA at
For guidance on “what to do if you see debris in Hawaii’s ocean or beaches” go to: .
For the latest information on JTMD, please visit the DLNR Marine debris website at or the NOAA Marine Debris Program website at

DLNR Seeks Tips From Public On Theft of Solar Panels & Other Items at MacKenzie State Park

Comfort station will be closed indefinitely until replacements, security measures are in place

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is seeking tips from the public that may help enforcement officers identify persons who stole solar panels and other items from MacKenzie State Recreation Area in Puna district this past weekend.


DLNR’s Division of State Parks has been conducting ongoing improvements at MacKenzie State Recreation Area since early this year that include a new composting comfort station and parking area near the camping sites and road repairs and improvements. Park improvements were to be completed this month.

Unfortunately, this past weekend (April 27-28), the new comfort station sustained property damage and theft of the newly installed solar panels and electrical equipment to operate the composting toilets. As a result, the new comfort station will be closed indefinitely to ensure the completion of repairs and installation of replacements, and security improvements are made.

Some of the items that were stolen are part of a sewage containment system and not of much value to those that have taken them because of the specialized nature of the parts.

It is not yet known how long it will take to find replacement parts and components of the stolen and damaged facilities.

Hawaii County Police Department and DLNR DOCARE enforcement officers are investigating. Estimates on the value of items stolen are pending. Anyone with information about the theft of items is asked to call the DOCARE branch office in Hilo at (808) 974-6208.

MacKenzie State Recreation Area, covering 13.1 acres, is located on Kalapana-Kapono Beach Road (Highway 137), 9 miles northeast of Kaimu. It is a low-cliffed, wild volcanic coastline with picnicking and tent camping in an ironwood grove and known for good shore fishing. An old Hawaiian coastal trail traverses the park. The park has restrooms, camping area, trash cans, but no water and is open daily during daylight hours. There is no entrance fee.