Molokoa House

Molokoa, the home of Lutheran pastor Rev. Hans Isenberg (1855-1918) and his wife, Mary Dorothea Rice Isenberg (1862-1949), was located in Lihue above the Lutheran Church on German Hill, approximately 400 yards north of the end of today’s hardtop road.

Actually an estate, Molokoa was comprised of a rambling plantation-style house, a swimming pool, gardens, a small dairy, a stable for horses and a poultry yard, all of which vanished when Lihue Plantation demolished Molokoa in the 1970s.

Likewise, little 60-foot-deep Molokoa Valley — situated nearby and alive with mango and orange trees, and through which Molokoa Stream wound southward to become a tributary of Nawiliwili Stream — was filled-in with earth also during the ‘70s.

Rev. Isenberg called Molokoa home from 1886 until his death. Mrs. Isenberg occupied Molokoa house for some years afterward.

Missionary Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, the widow of missionary William Harrison Rice — whose daughter, Hannah Maria, had married Kauai sugar planter Paul Isenberg, the brother of Rev. Hans Isenberg — also lived for a time at Molokoa.

Paul Isenberg built Lihue Plantation into a profitable business and became a partner in Honolulu sugar factory Hackfeld & Company. He then retired to Germany in 1878, but stayed at Molokoa on his biennial visits to Hawaii during the following 22 years.

Kauai historian Ethel Damon spent three years at Molokoa writing her magnum opus titled “Koamalu” — 976 pages in length and indexed by over 1,530 references.

Privately published in two volumes in Honolulu in 1931, “Koamalu’s” value to researchers is inestimable, and it remains to this day essential reading for anyone earnestly interested in the history of Kauai. Old-timers may remember Molokoa house when they were children growing up in nearby plantation camps. They refer to it as “Isenberg House” and recall visiting Molokoa during Christmas time, when they were given never-to-be-forgotten brown paper bags filled with then hard-to-come-by oranges, apples and Christmas candies.

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