The holiday season always rings in highs and lows for me. I'm mindful of time passing, the year dying, the river of life with its relentless surprises, some not altogether welcome. People out there carry burdens that no amount of holiday sparkle can suppress.
I sound gloomy today, don't I? Maybe it's the vog.
It cheers me up to go to High Street. A while ago I was walking in the plaza of the State Building in Wailuku feeling grateful.
It was a beautiful clear day. From the sunny glory of the lawn, with its tall trees and ever-fascinating view of the mountains, I could see that the clouds hanging above the walls of 'Iao wore their puffiest gowns.
People on the East Coast were enduring the aftermath of Sandy and I was on top of the world. It wasn't always so. A soulful man gave me an impromptu prophesy some months before during some dark days. "Don't worry," he said. "God will set you on a mountain." And there I was.
It's hard to be downcast in the heart of Wailuku. In this era of strip malls and deadening big-box stores, I was reminded of what a jewel we have in the town's civic center.
Over a period of 20 years, starting over a hundred years ago, Maui county fathers commissioned a quadrangle of four fine buildings facing one another across High Street, each architecturally distinct but sensitive to its neighbors. All with red roofs, three with stucco. The result was a whole that delighted Maui then and continues to charm today.
The first face of the new county seat, completed in 1909, was the new Wailuku Court House designed by the prominent Honolulu architect Henry Livingston Kerr. He chose hollow concrete block "new in the territory," according to Kristen Holmes' "Under A Maui Roof."
Moulds were made from basaltic lava rock and from these wooden casts constructed from which the blocks were fashioned. "Blueing" was added to the concrete to simulate the color of the original gray stone. Two imposing Ionic columns up a flight of steps give the building a classical appeal.
The second building to arise on High Street was the classic little Mediterranean-styled county office building designed by Maui architect William D'Esmond, completed in 1925 at a cost of $57,000. The pretty building with its Spanish tiled roof and dual arcades on the first and second floors was considered a symbol of the county's effort to wrest autonomy from the territorial government.
The third addition to the Wailuku civic center was Charles W. Dickey's Maui branch of the Library of Hawaii, situated across High Street from the county building. Its stone walls are covered in white plaster, the interior is finished in oak and the red roof is his signature style with its complex intersecting planes.
Dickey grew up on Maui, cousin to the Baldwin clan, son of Charles H. Dickey and Annie Alexander. She was a daughter of the missionaries William P. and Mary Ann Alexander who made their home in the white, gabled mission house in Wailuku, just below the Bailey House Museum. Ka'ahumanu Church is the latest incarnation of the Wailuku mission church, dating back to the 1830s.
Dickey studied Beaux Arts architecture at MIT and his early work in Honolulu refected this classical training. But after his return to Hawaii in 1924 from years in Oakland, he quickly became noted for his residences that were Hawaiian in flavor, due chiefly to the roof he popularized, if not originated.
The trademark "Dickey"or "Hawaiian" roof, as it has been called, is characterized by its high peak, low eaves, wide spread and double pitch. Dickey and his partner Hart Wood were masters of detail.
Note the glazed ceramic tiles on the library's drinking fountain and front steps, not cost effective in today's environment, I'm sure. When the building opened on Aug. 6, 1929, The Maui News proclaimed it "modern library perfection."
In 1930, Dickey designed the Territorial Office building across a side street from the library, the most modern and most restrained of the four buildings, elegant with a wide porch, high rectangular windows and four squared columns that play against the classical pillars against the street.
That day I bought a veggie burger at the Wailuku Subway and took myself to the bench in front of the library where I enjoyed the architecture as I ate.
It was such a simple moment, eating that sandwich, but I was content.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.