Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big Island, Small Office

Why "Hilo" there!

Hawai'i might not be a U.S. state today if not for its sugar industry. By the late 1800s, sugar plantation owners had gained enough influence over the islands' economy that they helped to overthrow the royal family of the islands (who lived in the stately 'Iolani Palace), in favor of annexation to the U.S. It was just that much easier to secure a market for their products this way! How much product? As recently as 1960, Hawai'ian sugar brought in a[n inflation-adjusted] billion dollars to the local economy per year. Production peaked at over a million tons a year.

The Big Island's northeast coast was a hotbed of plantations, and even featured a sugar train that ran down to Hilo. There is much less activity along that shore now, but one nugget lies in the town of Nīnole: the state's smallest post office!

Front view of the Nīnole post office. Notice the community board! (That's my backpack on the porch.)

In the second photograph you can see the PO boxes for the residents of the town, as there's no delivery in Nīnole. Note something you'd never see on the mainland -- the lobbies is open-air! Meaning you don't have to go inside to pick up your mail when you get home and the office is closed. Many offices in Hawai'i, even in Honolulu, have open-air box (and a couple, even retail) sections. I suppose that's what you get when the temperature rarely dips below 70.

Here's the largest office on the island: Hilo's; 17 miles down the road.

Photos taken March 2010.


  1. Does the postmaster sit in that little booth all day? I would go nuts.

  2. Fortunately, that office is only open three hours a day. ‘Ō‘ōkala, two and a half.

    Not to worry; one need not simply wait for the occasional customer. There are always the PO boxes to fill up with the morning's mail!

    Technically, the woman in charge is not an actual USPS Postmaster, since the Nīnole office is actually a CPO -- Community Post Office -- a contract facility run as a service to Nīnole since it has no other postal operations. (Same for ‘Ō‘ōkala.) The actual Postmaster is in Laupahoehoe, a town of several hundred about six miles away!