In the early morning cloud bank on our mountain overlooking Honolulu all we can see is the rounded tops of the acacia trees shaking their narrow leaves in the trade winds like the feathers of an uli uli gourd teasing the ear and eye. The old house creaks with the winds but holds firm. The nearest rippled peak is shrouded in mist while the Pearl and beaches are lost like a tropical Brigadoon. The gods and goddesses of the island are being heard through towering bamboo swaying and rustling insistently against the rain cistern and walkway. “Why wander? Stay in” it whispers. “Calm restlessness and appreciate the bounty in store. Let the island recover from the neon and cash machines. Be grateful for the pleasures of the rain bringing the greens to life again.”
We feel blessed to have isolated ourselves from the more touristy parts of the island even though we consciously choose to venture periodically into it. Perched in the historic Wilder home on Tantalus Peak we overlook the Harbor in one direction and Diamond Head in another. The trade winds blow fiercely on the mountains and temperatures go from 68 to 84 in a 20-minute drive down the snakey Round Top Road. We never minded at all but often wondered if living above this crazy traffic and contained sliver on a dot in the vast ocean would be worth future consideration.
The James A. Wilder Residence was build in 1907. It is a two-story clapboard house and it sits on a steeply sloped lot, with a cruciform design plan, and a hipped roof with closed eaves, exposed rafters, and bracketing. The interior features a brick fireplace, board and batten walls and ceilings, built-in cabinets and bookshelves, and bracketed window sills and plate rail. The Wilder home is significant as an early example of a craftsman style residence in Hawaii and is included in the Tantalus Residences Historic District.
James A Wilder, who built the home, was the son of a very early businessman who married the daughter of a missionary and the royal Princess. His parents were both royal and rich making them highly prominent in the early development of the nation before annexation by the United States. The Wilder Steamship Corporation provided delivery services for goods and travelers, as well as a lucrative mail delivery contract, between all of the Hawaiian islands. But, alas, James wasn’t interested in the family business and opted instead, after gaining a Harvard diploma, to start the first Boy Scout troop in Hawaii and become a modestly successful artist.