One of Waimea’s oldest buildings will be open to the public Sunday afternoon.
Likely built in the late 1840s or early 1850s by William French, the building now known as the Spencer home sits next to McDonald’s on Mamalahoa Highway.
Most recently a commercial center, it was once known as the Bickerton Hotel, said Patti Cook, a Waimea Community Association member who once ran a thrift store inside the building.
The Waimea Preservation Association and members of the Waimea Community Association are hoping to raise $65,000 by the end of August so they can lease the historical home and turn it into a welcome center of sorts, Cook said, offering visitors information about Waimea’s history, as well as a central information depot for locals.
In the weeks since the organizations began discussing trying to lease the building — still owned by members of the Spencer family — Cook said she’s heard a lot of stories about the house, which was once much smaller. In the back are three porches, with the central one marking the original home.
“The story seems to be, as the family grew, so did the house,” Cook said. “Mr. French used it as a small store.”
French also purportedly grew potatoes and onions in a field now occupied by North Hawaii Community Hospital. He may have exported that produce to gold miners in California, Cook said.
“The suggestion was he made money on selling potatoes and onions,” she said. “That may have helped pay for the house. We don’t know if that’s true. That’s part of the legend.”
Another legend is connected to a pane of glass with the words “Boy Blue” carved into it. Speculation is that King David Kalakaua may have been the one to make that inscription, which Cook said was done with a diamond.
With Parker Ranch booming and the Parker family in town, it wasn’t unusual for “people of stature” and means to make a stop in Waimea in the late 19th century, Cook added.
The building in recent years housed a real estate office, law firm, stores and a cafe, Cook said. It has been empty the past two years, but is still in good physical condition despite its age.
Features inside the 19th-century home include rounded ceilings in a living room reminiscent of a ship’s interior, as well as a steep staircase that resembles a ship’s ladder. The front of the house once sported a staircase, but subsequent expansions have covered up those steps, Cook said.
Interior support posts are all koa, although sturdy double-wall construction hides the wood, she added.
“A big piece of (what the groups are trying to do) is trying to preserve a piece of Waimea’s past, retain some of that sense of heritage,” Cook said. The other aim is “shaping the future” by providing a place for nonprofit and community organizations to come together.
The idea is more than just office space for groups that don’t have any such space now, she said. Sometimes, just getting groups together helps the groups see how they can collaborate and build on each other’s strengths, Cook said. If the groups can raise $65,000, they’ll have enough money to cover a year’s lease, insurance, utilities and minor repairs.
Already, about 50 donors have pledged $18,000 in support, she said.
The Spencer House will be open to the public from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Waimea Community Association members encourage people with stories and photos of the Spencer House to bring those to share during the open house.