02/14/14 – DLNR Partners With Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours To Preserve Historic Nutridge House

Posted on Feb 14, 2014 in News Releases, State Historic Preservation Division

News Release


For Immediate News Release February 14, 2014


HONOLULU – The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of State Parks has entered into a pilot agreement with Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours (DHT) to make available for public use the historic Nutridge House property on the grounds of Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Wayside, which is located off Round Top Drive and overlooks urban Honolulu in Makiki. Rental availability for functions will help to generate funds to benefit the continued maintenance and preservation of the historic site.

“A key priority is to preserve this historic house, which has been largely unknown to the public and underutilized. We are working closely with Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours to strike a balance between improved public access and critically needed revenue to protect the future of scenic Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

State Parks will monitor the public use levels and income from this new partnership and, near the end of the year, will re-evaluate this and current market conditions to determine what the next steps may be. Under the new revocable permit, State Parks anticipates a minimum income of $60,000 will be generated the first year, while the routine maintenance of the house and grounds will be carried out by Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours at no cost to the state.

“This is an example of a public-private partnership that may be applied to other State Park locations in the future to enhance public access to areas that have fallen into disuse and help us meet our responsibilities for long-term maintenance and preservation,” Aila said.

Under the terms of the revocable permit, Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours will operate both the Nutridge House and its grounds for a variety of events such as tours, weddings, corporate retreats, other social gatherings, and banquets, with rental rates commensurate with the activity.

“State Parks and Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours are working together to provide a quality experience and have agreed that, at least twice a month, the house and grounds will be available at a nominal fee for community-related activities,” said Dan Quinn, State Parks administrator. Reservations will be made available through the Discover Hidden Hawai‘i Tours website at https://www.discoverhawaiitours.com.

The Division of State Parks is taking a fresh look at its various park properties across the state for possible opportunities to offset budget reductions experienced since the 2008, which threatened the continued facilities maintenance and operation of the Hawai‘i State Park system. “While new revenue has strengthened, there is still the need for us to enhance the value of State Parks land through new creative partnerships with the private sector,” said Quinn.

The Nutridge House was designed in 1925 by noted Hawai‘i architect Hart Wood for Mr. Earnest Shelton Van Tassel, founder of the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Company. It is located on a grassy hillside of former pasture land which became the state’s first macadamia nut plantation, when 692 trees were planted in 1924.

The company entered into a 50 year lease issued by then Territorial Governor Wallace Farrington and in 1931, Van Tassel established a macadamia processing factory on Pohukaina Street in Kaka‘ako. Nuts were sold under the trade name Van’s Macadamia Nuts.

In its heyday, celebrities such as Clark Gable, Carlo Lombard, Frank Sinatra and Dina Merrill visited and stayed at the Nutridge House.

The macadamia nut trees and the remnants of the historic flume system used to collect and transport the nuts remain on the slopes of ‘Ualaka‘a today but are unmaintained. In 1981, the house was nominated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Hawaii State Park System, Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Wayside.

For approximately the past 30 years, the historic house has been cared for and occupied under a permit by Rick Ralston, the founder and former owner of retail icon Crazy Shirts. Ralston invested significant sums of money and devoted considerable time and energy in meticulously restoring the historic house which might have otherwise been lost due to years of neglect. The house has been quietly maintained and used as a residence. State Parks hopes to expand upon his previous efforts.

# # #

Media Contact:
Deborah Ward
Public Information Specialist
(808) 587-0320