The Lydgate’s grass house

Rev. John Mortimer Lydgate (1854-1922), the pastor of Lihu‘e Union Church from 1898 through 1919, and the man for whom Lydgate Park is named, spent many a happy day with Mrs. Helen Lydgate and their young sons, John Mortimer Jr., Theodore Homer, Elwell Percy and Lloyd William Anthony, at their beloved grass house situated at the base of Mt. Kahili.

Their outings to the grass house would begin at home in Lihu‘e, where Lydgate would hitch his horse, Clara, to his carriage and then, with reins in hand and with his wife and boys aboard, he would drive out to Halfway Bridge on the old macadam road from Lihu‘e.

At Halfway Bridge, Lydgate would turn mauka, passing over rough terrain, streams and upland meadows toward Mt. Kahili.

Not far from their grass house stood the grass house of the Hawaiian married couple who’d built much of Lydgate’s grass house.

In the Hawaiian language, Lydgate had asked them to build the grass portions of his house, a price was set and an agreement was reached. 

But first, a wooden frame and paper roofing was constructed by a Japanese carpenter.

 Then the Hawaiian couple tied bamboo poles with bark twine over the outside of the frame, until it looked somewhat like a giant birdcage.  Next, they tied rushes and grass under the bamboos, working from the bottom up. After they’d applied a trimming of dried ferns at the corners and a braided finish around the windows, they were done.

Inside, there was a long punee bed.  Cooking was done just outside the house with a Japanese stove on an open hearth.  Close by were easy chairs. 

Then one day, a Kona gale destroyed the house. After seeing its wreckage lodged in trees below, Lydgate commented forlornly in Latin, “Sic transit gloria mundi,” which in English means “Worldly things are fleeting.”


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