When the British navigator, Capt. James Cook, "discovered" Hawaii in 1778, Polynesians had been navigating the Pacific Ocean for more than 1,000 years. The population of the Hawaiian Islands was estimated between 300,000 and 800,000. By the early 1800s a census counted only 50,000 Hawaiians. More than 95% of the people had died. The dense population of Hawaiians who had once lived on this idyllic and celebrated stretch of the Kona Coast had disappeared. Grass hale had melted into the landscape. The kuliana were overgrown and abandoned. All that remained were rock walls and house platforms, and native plants that had been used for food, medicine, tools, weapons and shade. Along the seashore were stone artifacts used for pa'a kai, (sea salt pans), post holes, palu (bait) bowls, and konane (Hawaiian checkers). Many of these artifacts are still in evidence along the shore in front of the Cottage.
Kona in the 1900's
In the early 1900s Kona was noted for its large cattle ranches. The best grazing land began midway up the slope of Hualalai where daily rainfall nurtured luxuriant grass lands. At higher elevations, potable water was abundant. Kailua, which had been one of King Kamehameha's principal residences, supported only a small fishing industry, one hotel and three stores. Few people wanted to live at the beach, it was hot and dry. There was no public water system. Wells yielded brackish water. There was no electricity. The one lane road was surfaced with crushed coral that was hard on automobile tires.