KALAHEO — Hidden away in Kalaheo, about a quarter mile west of mile marker 12 on Kaumualii Highway, is a dirt road that leads to a property with a storied history.
Olu Pua Gardens in Kalaheo is a 12.29-acre property and former botanical garden that once housed 5,000 species of tropical plants and about 50,000 orchids.
The property will be up for auction on Aug. 2 — but with a catch.
“It’s going to auction without reserve, so that means there’s no minimum bid for the property,” said Krystal Aeby, vice president of marketing for Concierge Auctions. “It will trade to the highest bidder on auction day.”
Olu Pua Gardens was previously listed for $6.5 million.
The property has five dwellings, with the main house at 3,1000 square feet, the lower guest house at about 2,700 square feet and the additional dwellings at 1,000 square feet each.
Martie Law, Olu Pua Gardens property manager, said she ultimately wants to see the property “in the right hands.”
“It’s such a unique property that it would be nice to have some kind of public feature reintroduced — whether it was tours (or an) educational facility,” she said.
Built in the 1930s, the main house was residence for Kauai Pineapple Co. Manager R.G. Bell. Later in the decade, a second house was built for John Watkins, Kauai Pineapple Co. assistant manager.
In 1964, Ray and Betty Lauchis purchased the property. It was Betty who gave the property its name, olu pua, which means “peace among flowers.”
“Betty found the property to be awe-inspiring and decided to go back to school for her horticulture degree, and she began importing plants,” Law said.
At that time, according to historical records, Olu Pua Gardens was known for having the most extensive collection of tropical plants in the Pacific region.
In the 1970s, the Lauchis sold the property to Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, who imported thousands of plants and tens of thousands of orchids to the estate.
“Athalie was really the one that took Betty’s vision of the property and catapulted it into the grand botanical garden it became,” Law said. “But that was the baby of Clarke, who was the most significant contributor to the botanical garden’s functionings during its heyday in the 70s and 80s.”
The current owners, The Freeman Trust, bought the property in 2002. Like Law, the owners would like to see the estate become open to the public once again.
“When people came to visit, they were entertained and educationally inspired.” Law said. “I really hope somebody will take it on somehow incorporated it back to the community in some level.”