You may recognize this rock (or do you)? Although it is located at a well traveled campus location, you may have passed by it many times and never stopped to really look at it.
On its memorial tablet is written the following inscription:
On this spot stood the home of the Rev. Hiram Bingham who gave this broad estate to the cause of Christian education.
Do you know it now? More importantly, do you know why it is an important campus spot?
Click on “more” for the answer.
The Bingham memorial tablet is located at the makai/Diamond Head (Dillingham Hall side) corner of today’s Cooke Library. It marks the site where the Bingham cottage stood on the Punahou School campus grounds.
The exact site of the cottage was discovered in 1900 by the unearthing of the southern corner of the home’s foundation. Built in 1831 of adobe and sporting a thatched roof, it stood for thirty years beside a clump of hau trees. During its last twenty years, the “old house” was used as a carriage house.
The structure consisted of row of two main rooms, a porch, a storeroom, and a pantry. A cookhouse was nearby but separate from the main building.
Hiram Bingham (b. 1831) recalled the house at the unveiling of the tablet:
It was never my privilege to be a pupil at the Punahou Mission School but I can well remember how in summer days, when the heat was great and we were wont, for a change, to dwell in the humble cottage which stood here … Memory goes back sixty-six years to the delights of this refreshing spot, where, after the long weary walk of the day, I was wont to meet a mother’s welcome … I remember how I was wont to stroll in the cool shady spots so romantic to me in childhood among the banana trees which grew by the side of the taro patches; how in this cottage we children eagerly listened to the reading of the Rollo Books when they first appeared, and how we rejoiced over the toys as one by one they were taken from the box just arrived from around Cape Horn.
Mrs. Bingham’s failing health encouraged the couple’s return to the States in 1840. From Brooklyn, NY she wrote to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on January 27, 1846 about her former home and land:
I had a farm granted me by the Hawaiian rulers, of some 100 acres, embracing several fish ponds, salt beds, and kalo patches, and a 10 acre cane field. This division is called Punahou where 20 acres are enclosed and is now occupied for the Boarding School of the children of the missionaries. … According to the rules, it naturally belongs to common stock. I should think the whole grant, well husbanded, might well support the preceptor of that mission Academy, if not more. But to husband the whole to advantage, may, like every other farm in the Sandwich Islands, require time, skill and care, which missionaries cannot devote to it which few are able or willing to bestow.
And thus the Punahou campus was secure and dedicated to the education of Hawaii’s children … and that’s well worth this memorial tablet. Take a look at it during your next visit to the campus!
Punahou Class of ’74’s Blog referenced the following source for this post:
Alexander, Mary Charlotte and Charlotte Peabody Dodge. Punahou: 1841-1941. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1941. Print.