Tuesday morning Hawaii Life had its weekly meeting and Oahu market update at a very special location: Muliwai on the North Shore of Oahu. This charming and unique family estate provided us with a taste of Old Hawaii in a gorgeous North Shore beachfront setting.
Muliwai evokes a strong sense of place and provides "beauty, serenity, history, variety & privacy, all less than an hour from Honolulu & 30 minutes from the most famous surfing beaches in the world.”
See Professional Video of Home Below. “Entering the main house is like walking into a painting - the great room opens up to an expansive great lawn overlooking sparkling, dynamic ocean to spectacular mountain views, including the iconic remnant pilings of the old sugar cane pier. Two side cottage wings are connected to the main house, incorporating timeless elements of the architecture of old Hawaii: open-sided buildings, high peaked roofs, board & batten siding and polished concrete floors. Included are a beachside pool, paddle tennis court, stream, bridge, paths to explore & great lawn perfect for croquet & other games.”
What is particularly interesting is the unique history of the home, as memorialized by Susan Walker Kowen:
“Jane McIntyre (my great-grandmother) was born in Lahaina in 1847. Her parents were from Scotland via the South Pacific.
In 1866, she married John Walker in Honolulu. John was born in Scotland and moved to the US as a boy. He later moved to Hawaii for his health, at the suggestion of Brigham Young, whom he met when leading wagon trains of Mormons from the mid-West to Utah.
John Walker held many positions in the cabinets of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani and was a member of the Hawaiian House of Nobles.
The Walkers had 11 children. The youngest child was my grandfather H. Alexander (Alex) Walker, born in Honolulu in 1885. He was the President and CEO of American Factors (later called AMFAC).
Alex married Una Craig (from California) in 1920. They met while both surfing at Waikiki Beach.
They lived in a variety of houses in Nuuanu, their last house being what is now generally referred to as the "Walker Estate".
The Building of Muliwai
In 1939 or so, the couple decided they wanted a "country house" to get away from the hustle and bustle (ha!) of Honolulu.
Una located the property that is now Muliwai and purchased it with her own money. She supervised the drawing of the plans and was very involved in monitoring the construction.
The architect was well-known Honolulu architect Burt Ives and the house was designed in the old Hawaiian style, incorporating elements of traditional Hawaiian construction (open sides, tall ceilings) and plantation-style "board and batten" architecture. (Given the family's involvement in the sugar industry, it was poetic that the property viewed the pier on which sugar cane from the Kahuku Sugar Mill was offloaded from railway carts to schooners. It is also a coincidence that the Walker's youngest child Ann would later marry the man who was, for many years, the manager of Kahuku Plantation.)
The original house (now the property of James Greig, M.D.) consisted of 3 bedrooms for the couple's 3 children (who were approximately 12, 17 and 25 at the time the house was built).
Another structure built on the property at the time was a two bedroom/1 bath cottage ("Gramp's Cottage") up on the hill (which is the same "cottage" that is now the ocean-side wing of our house). The structure was Una and Alex's bedroom suite.
Also built was a caretaker's cottage which still exists near Kamehameha Highway and is owned now by the Greig family.
The property was about 5 acres.
The Walkers never lived full time at Muliwai but drove out from "town" nearly every weekend. The house was named "Muliwai" by Una. Muliwai means "stream" or "enclosed water" in Hawaiian. (There is an unrelated Hawaiian song entitled "Muliwai", which many of Hawaii's old musicians played when Una, and later my mother Nancy Walker, entered the room at a party or club.)
For three decades, Alex and Una entertained frequently at Muliwai. While some guests stayed the night or over a weekend, most came out for the day and for lunch.
The Walkers were very close to the members of the Pacific Command (CINPAC) during the years of WWII and beyond. Admiral Nimitz was a close friend and visited nearly every weekend he was in Hawaii. Other well-known admirals were also frequent guests (Radford, Spruance, Felt, Sharp).
The Walkers spent a great deal of time in Washington, D.C. during the 1930s and 1940s while Alex lobbied in Congress on behalf of the Hawaiian sugar industry. While there, they met many of the country's leading figures.
Famous guests at Muliwai came from all walks of life and included: Henry and Claire Booth Luce, Mayor John Lindsay of New York City, William F. Buckley, Samuel Goldwyn, Loretta Young, the President of Finland, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, General of the Army Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur II and many others.
In the 1950s, a 9 hole pitch and putt golf course was designed by Mr. Walker and Admiral Radford. The tees for the course spread over the entire parcel (including several on what is now our land). The course had orange metal tee markers, monogrammed golf towels and printed rules.
The Muliwai stream was used for fishing, canoeing, and boating. There was a "slip" carved into the stream bank for the mooring of my father's small boat the "Windy".
Many games of horseshoes, hide and seek, and paddle tennis were played on the property over the years.
In 1946/1947, a second cottage was built on what is now the Lilly property. This was used for guests, particularly military ones. This structure was called the "Shell Cottage" or the "Admiral's Cottage" and burned down in the late 1970’s.
In the 1960s another bedroom and bath were added to the main house.
In the 1960s the "Western Governors' Conference" was held at Muliwai.
The house was also the site of many beach parties for the teenage grandchildren of the Walkers in the 60s. Many weddings, baby luau, birthday and anniversary parties, have been held on the various, now-divided, properties in the last 8 decades.
Subdivision of the Property
Mr. H. Alexander Walker died in 1969. Una Craig Walker died in 1987.
After Mrs. Walker's death, the property was divided among her three children.
Daughter Ann Walker Burns received the parcel with the original house. Mrs. Burns sold her property to the Greigs in the early 1990s.
Virginia Craig Lilly, who already owned a small parcel and house on the Kahuku side, received the Kahuku-most area of the larger property. Virginia ("Ginger") built the small house next door ("Waipuna") on her second parcel in the 1990s. The house is in the same style as the original house.
Henry A. Walker Jr. (my father and the former CEO and Chairman of AMFAC, Inc., at one time a Fortune 500 company) received our current lot with the "cottage" on it and the paddle tennis court area. My parents (Henry and Nancy Walker) built our exiting house in the early 1990s. The architect was Philip K. White of Honolulu, whose family has a lovely house in a similar style (used in the filming of "The Descendents") across the road, closer to Hauula.) The design of the house incorporated the pre-existing cottage, creating a U shaped structure facing the great lawn and ocean. The paddle tennis was refurbished at this time and the pool added.
Henry and Nancy Walker entertained many dear friends and business associates at Muliwai, frequently serving Hawaiian food.
Henry A. Walker, Jr. died in 2000 and Nancy Johnston Walker died in 2012. The property is now owned by their daughter (me) and her husband Richard Kowen.
Five generations of the family have loved Muliwai and have carried its grace and spirit in their hearts.“
— Susan Walker Kowen, January 26, 2018