Kilauea Lodge may be the most famous structure in Volcano Village. Visitors and tourists comment on the excellent food and serene atmosphere. Only a mile from Volcano National Park, the lodge is a pleasant place to stay while exploring the area. Hiloans often drive approximately thirty miles southwest on Highway 11 for a brief “staycation.”
But if you look a little deeper, Kilauea Lodge offers more than atmosphere. It represents a slice of American history from the brief interlude between two horrific world wars. American involvement in the First World War lasted from 1917-1918. President Wilson promised it would be the “war to end all wars.” Americans believed him. During the 1920s and ‘30s most Americans committed to the concept of international brotherhood and desperately hoped President Wilson was right.
Post-war America embarked on a decade long celebration that ended abruptly with the 1929 stock market crash. Yet, people continued to cling to the ideal of peace. The builders of Hale-o-Aloha (the precursor to Kilauea Lodge) believed in that dream. Harold V. Lucas, General Secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, pioneer volcanologist and Chairman of the YMCA, envisioned a forest camp where boys and young men could be infused with high morals and integrity. At the center of their vision was a cement and lava rock Fireplace of Friendship that continues to draw people. And for a moment, anything is possible.
The men envisioned a lasting edifice with contributions from around the world. Lucas sent letters to every club in the International Rotary and Lions Club International networks. Jaggar contacted the U.S. National Parks network. Could you send us a stone we can put in the fireplace? One hundred clubs and individuals from across the world sent a contribution.
Other items embedded in the massive fireplace are uniquely local, like the kuikui nut grinder.
To raise funds for $1000 cost of construction, supporters sold Friendship Tokens with a price range from 5 cents to $100. (valued at approximately $8 to $1,688 today).
In 1938, four hundred people gathered to dedicate the fireplace, many probably hoping the biblical motto “That they all may be one” would prove to be true.
Alas, in December 1941 the United States again became a nation at war. From 1942-1945 the property became a radio school for the U.S. Army, but its founders never lost hope.
The August 1943 Issue of The Rotarian included an excerpt from a then recent speech by Harold V. Lucas: “The faint hearted and faithless can hear only the roar of guns and see the wanton waste of human life and materials. A true Rotarian is not in this class. He must play the role of a man of courage to face a future challenged with disaster and chaos, of a man of faith in the power of God working through human hearts and of a man of vision to see ahead through the storm. He must plan now for the future with heart and mind unprejudiced by the narrow walls of today’s hatreds and bitterness.”
Neither the world, nor Hale-o-Aloha remained the same. The 1960 tsunami destroyed the YMCA building in Hilo. Leaders decided to sell the Volcano camp to pay for a new building. Virginia and Bill Dicks bought the property and opened a lunch shop famous for its “mile high pie.” When Highway 11 became operational, the property lost its roadside advantage. The Dicks used the building as a private home until they sold it to current owners Lorna and Albert Jeyte.
The Jeytes restored the property and opened Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant in 1988.
Is that the real story? Mostly.
Different sources have varying perspectives on camp ownership. I think the story of the YMCA camp makes the most sense, but some sources differ. The official plaque attributes camp development to the Boy Scouts and states the property was sold to finance a beach camp. Histories of the Fireplace of Friendship are consistent.
Ownership comes and goes, but a massive fireplace of cement and lava rock is pretty much for keeps.
Photos by Author.
Featured Image: Signage for Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant
Kilauea Lodge Website:
Alan McNarie. “Then and Now: Kilauea Lodge.” Keola Magazine. Nov-Dec 2014. Here.
Harold V. Lucas. Excerpt from Rotary Club Address. The Rotarian. Aug. 1943. Here.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.