Rolling Sweet Potato
Under King Kamehameha I, the Makiki-Tantalus forest was cleared and planted with sweet potato, and given the name “Pu’u Ualaka’a”, meaning “rolling sweet potato hills”. One story suggests that it was given its name from the King rolling sweet potatoes down the hill to the people at the bottom of the hill. Another story tells of a famous bow and arrow expert who rested on Punchbowl, a mile or two from the sweet potato field, who looked over to the field and saw a mouse eating one of the potatoes. He shot his arrow killing the mouse and the potato he was eating rolled down the hill, thus the Hawaiians gave the name of “rolling sweet potato” to the district. Today, the same sweet potatoes can be found covering the hill side behind the Nutridge house.
Macadamia Nut Plantation
In the 1920’s Ernest Shelton Van Tassel began importing and planting macadamia nut trees from Australia. Van Tassel planted on 22 acres of the Pu’u Ualaka’a Wayside, which he leased from the, then, Territory of Hawai’i. In doing so, he established the Hawai’i Macadamia Nut Company Ltd., the first macadamia nut plantation in the state. At its height, there were over 2,000 macadamia nut trees growing in the Nutridge grove. Today, those same macadamia nut trees can be found throughout the Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park as well as right here at the Nutridge Estate.
Hawaiian Architecture and Design
Completed in 1925, Van Tassel commissioned American architect Hart Wood to built the Nutridge house. At the time, Wood was at the forefront of the movement to create a style of archetecture in the islands which appropriately reflected a sense of place. As a result, the Nutridge house is representative of the “Hawaiian Style” where the house reflects a sense of place and is neither dominating nore being dominated by its location, blending in with its natural surroundings. The Nutridge Estate was just one of many other local historic structures built by Hart Wood, among those were the First Church of Christ Scientists on Punahou Street, the First Chinese Church on King Street, S & G Bump Biulding on Kalakaua Avenue, the Alexander & Baldwin building on Bishop Street, and Honolulu Hale in downtown.
Get-A-Way for the Stars
Under the care of Van Tassel, the Nutridge Estate was once considered a private get away for celebrities vacationing in the islands. A few of its iconic guests consisted of Clark Gabel, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chapman, and Elvis Presley. Elvis loved the Pu’u Ualaka’a landscape so much, that he used it as a backdrop in his famous film “Blue Hawaii”.