Back in December 2016, the Pu’unene Sugar Mill in Central Maui shut down after 145 years processed its last crop of sugar cane. However, the mill’s legacy lives on at the Pu’unene Sugar Museum. And, now, we get news that the Maui Sugar Museum plans an expansion with new exhibits on the way.
The Pu’unene Sugar Museum was established back in 1980 – long before the landmark sugar mill shut its doors. Since the beginning, the goal of the museum is to memorialize Hawaii’s sugar pioneers, including the Alexander & Baldwin Company. After all, Alexander & Baldwin is Pu’unene’s parent and also provided the seed money for the museum. Today, the museum occupies 1.8 acres of land off of Hansen Road near the former mill site. Well, at least for now.
Maui Sugar Museum Plans Expansion
According to Maui News, the Sugar Museum plans to expand its total acreage to 4.2. The lease for this was granted by Alexander & Baldwin back in 2017. The larger area also came with a lease extension to 2047 too. Recently, though, the Maui County Council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee approved an extension to the Museum’s conditional use permit by 26 years. In essence, it extends the permit out to 2047, matching the lease term.
Currently, the museum plans to use its additional space to build a new multipurpose building to house a meeting room, restrooms, and additional exhibition space for components of the Sugar Cane Train. Other improvements under consideration include additional space for outdoor displays, exhibits and garden areas, vehicle and bus parking, upgraded visitor circulation, and the use of the former director’s residence as a meeting space.
While I’ve never been to the Pu’unene Sugar Museum, it’s long been on my list of places to visit – especially after their expansion. And though it doesn’t look like much, the Museum provides a really interesting look back in time. Plus, contrary to what’d you think about a company-sponsored Museum, the Museum doesn’t shy away from contentious topics. For example, future plans call for an exhibit discussing conflicts over land and water use and the impacts on Native Hawaiians. I am skeptical, however, of the museum’s plans to include parts of the now-defunct Sugar Cane Train. After all, Alexander & Baldwin owns and has restored one of the Kahului Railroad’s first steam locomotives – the Claus Spreckels. Currently, the locomotive lives at the Maui Tropical Plantation, but the intent was always to give it a permanent space at the museum.