For a touch of history and nostalgia when visiting Hawaii, Lyman House Memorial Museum is the perfect stop. This charming memorial is Hilo's oldest surviving wood-framed building, originally built to house missionaries from mainland USA. Since the 1930s it has served as a museum dedicated to honouring their work and way of life, with an adjacent building full of exhibits from that time and also displaying items of Hawaii's natural beauty.
Reverend David Lyman and his wife Sarah moved to Hawaii as missionaries in 1832. Their wood-framed building – not usually seen in Hawaii – was inspired by the homes in their native New England and was built in 1838. The couple raised seven children in the house and even received visits from Hawaiian royalty and dignitaries such as Mark Twain.
In 1931 it was turned into a museum, and in the 1960s another building was erected on the same plot to make the attraction bigger. The original home stands as it was when the Lymans lived in it, still full of original furniture dating back to the missionaries' time. As well as seeing how the Lymans lived, you'll learn about the difficulties they endured settling into a place that was a six-month journey from their home.
The second building is a museum devoted to Hawaiian life, and is split into two sections. The upper level focuses on the people of Hawaii: their culture, the sports they played and their old ways of life. Downstairs displays the natural phenomena of the islands with lava rocks, beautiful shells and ancient fossils.
Tours of the home are available at allocated times only. Currently they run at 11am and 2pm, Monday to Saturday, and you'll be led round by guides who know the ins and outs of the building and the family who once lived there. The Lyman House is just off Waianuenue Avenue, to the west of Hilo Airport. To make a day of your visit to the Lyman House Memorial Museum, consider visiting the nearby attractions of Mauna Kea, the Mauna Loa Observatory and the Pacific Tsunami Museum.