By Robert M. Fox and Mike Faye, Honolulu Star-Advertiser December 2, 2012
Illustration by Robert M. Fox
Russian Fort Elizabeth was built along Waimea River between 1815 and 1817.
Russian Fort Elizabeth, along Waimea River on the west side of Kauai, was built between 1815 and 1817.
It was built in collaboration with Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai, and had a substantial effect on the politics on Kauai. The site is also significant as one of the last remaining early post-contact, pre-missionary structures, and as having been built from the materials of Kaumualii's luakini class heiau Pa Ula Ula.
It is a formidable 20-foot-high stone structure with an octagon-shaped layout about 300 feet wide by 450 feet across. The ramparts and cannon emplacements provided substantial stone platforms to ward off potential attackers.
By 1817 the Russians had departed, but the fort was garrisoned by the Kamehameha forces until the 1850s to protect Kamehameha's interests on Kauai.
An important event occurred in 1824, after the death of Kaumualii. His son, Prince George, believed he should be the rightful ruler of Kauai, in spite of his father's pledge of allegiance to Kamehameha.
Prince George and followers attacked the fort and were quickly repulsed by the Kamehameha forces. This is the last known armed challenge to Kamehameha's authority.
By the 1980s many of the stone walls had crumbled and the remaining walls were covered with the roots of invasive foliage that continued to damage and displace the remaining walls.
In 2006, the West Kauai Business & Professional Association entered into an agreement with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to clean and maintain the fort grounds and crumbling walls.
Today the invasive trees have been removed and the roots are being treated in an effort to preserve the remaining stone walls of the fort.
Visitors are allowed to walk through the structure on gravel paths but are asked not to walk along the walls in order to protect the structure from further damage.
The business association is considering developing a plan for public input and budget for a restoration and interpretive plan for the fort.
Discussions were held with Russian delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings as participants in the proposed restoration project, reflecting the international interest in this site.
The community in Waimea is looking forward to planning the fort's 200th anniversary in 2015. Community and governmental input will be needed to develop an interpretational plan that is expected to cost $250,000 or more.