Fortune would smile on this (outsider) from California as he contemplated buying the property, when into his driveway, and into his life, drove a woman who introduced herself as “Aunty Fran”. She would turn out to be respected Hawaiian (priest) and architect, Dr (Rev.) Fran Palama, a specialist in architecture for restoration and very well connected at Maui County, who controlled planning and ultimately, Xorin’s fate.
So this was a Baldwin house – a name closely associated with the first missionaries, who married into Hawaii’s royal families and into power. So the County would not permit just anyone to restore it. But as she drove away Aunty Fran told Xorin, “If you meet anyone at the County let them know that you met Aunty Fran and everything will be taken care of”.
The land was special – he had felt its energy, but he’d also seen the dry rot that now invaded the buckled timber buildings that, a decade earlier, had housed pineapple pickers. So Xorin knew the onerous task he faced, but believed it was important to restore the unique 1909 authentic Craftsman style property with its “neo-classical and vernacular Japanese details”.
The next day, back in Los Angeles, where he was living in the Hollywood Hills in his latest historic restoration – a 1926 design by Frank Lloyd Wright Jnr in the form of a Mayan temple – Xorin got on the phone. “I started calling all the people I had met with at the County and I also shared with them that I had met Aunty Fran and they all could not believe that I had met her. They were, like, ‘how can you be here for a few days and meet Aunty Fran?’ And so it was the connection with Aunty Fran that allowed my permitting process to happen in 25 per cent of the time it should have happened for most people.”