Preserving Kona's Stories

H.N. Greenwell Store Museum

H.n. Greenwell Store Museum

Exhibit & Living History program

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Constructed by Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell in 1870, the store once served the immigrant community with supplies and goods needed in the remote Kona district. From his headquarters here at the Greenwell Store, H.N. Greenwell amassed thousands of acres of ranch land where he and his sons helped to develop the Kona ranching industry of the late 19th century. His wife Elizabeth Caroline Greenwell ran the store in her husband’s absence and was joined as storekeeper by her daughter-in-law Maud Greenwell during the 1930s.

The H.N. Greenwell Store is the oldest surviving store in Kona and one of the oldest buildings in Hawaii. In May of 2006, restoration began. The original coral lime mortar and later patches were removed and replaced with a modern version of putty lime mortar. The ceiling boards were removed and replaced when necessary, but the initials “HNG” can still be seen on some of the boards. Shutters and trim were repainted using the original colors, and a stabilizing diaphragm was installed in the attic, thus saving the building from major damage during the October 2006 earthquake.

It has taken many hours of planning and research to recreate the details of the interior accurately. The first step was to look at the community here in the 1890s (the population, ethnicities, and the different occupations) and try to assess what their needs were and what Mr. Greenwell would have purchased for them. Some of HNG’s diary entries talk about what he was ordering for the store, and an actual inventory list of his was obtained from the Bishop Museum. Inventory lists of other 19th- century stores and suppliers in the area were also helpful.

When you walk into the restored State & Nationally Historic registered H.N. Greenwell Store, you cross the threshold into the 1890s. As you enter the broad front doors, the mingled aromas of a general store serving the needs of Kona ranches waft through the air. Stocked with accurate reproductions of goods that filled the shelves and hung from the ceiling joists, the store offers a glimpse of activities at Kalukalu over a century ago. You won’t leave this place without feeling that you have been transported back in time for a rare glimpse into Kona’s colorful past.

While the Kona Museum Gallery is being built, this exhibit is on rotation in the historic H.N. Greenwell Store along with several other Kona Historical Society exhibits. The exhibit currently on display, Pūʻolo: The Gifts We Bring, closes on June 27, 2019, at which point the Store Exhibit will be reinstalled and will open to the public shortly thereafter. Living History programs will be held on special occasions in the store. For schedule details, please check out our Events Calendar, or subscribe to our mailing list in the form below.