The end of an era. As Hawaii closes its doors on the sugar industry, what does that mean for all of the buildings and machines used in the sugar mills over the last century?
While taking photos at the Puunene Sugar Mill, I was approached by a security guard for the area. Knowing I was just down the street from the library, in the middle of the day on a public road, I was confused why he was stopping. Was I trespassing without even knowing? I put my camera around my neck as he rolled down his window. The first thing I see is the enormous smile plastered across his face. "Thank you, thank you sister!" he says to me. And now I am really confused. What was he thanking me for? He proceeded to tell me that all of the working equipment had been sold off, and the buildings were in the first stages of inspection to be demolished. He said they expected to start the demolition project in early 2019. He was thanking me for preserving a part of the Hawaiian culture and history through real photographs. We talked for about a half an hour, and he told me stories of his uncles working at this mill decades ago, and taking the train to school at what is now "Old Maui High School". He told me to just stay outside the fences, but take as many photos as I want, and was on his way.
Luckily, one of the buildings (Puunene School) was restored and is now used as an administration building. So at least a small part of this historic town will still be preserved.
Here are a few links to information about the history and end of sugar production in Hawaii:
End of an Era as Hawaii's Last Sugar Mill Wraps Up Final Harvest
Life After Sugar: A Year Later
HC Sugar History
Below is the collection of film photographs that were taken that day. I love how eerie the film makes the area feel. If anyone has photos of this mill taken while it was still working, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on my blog.