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Architectural Masterpiece Undergoing Restoration (Part Three)

Historic Strong-Carter Estate in process of restoration. Photo by Phil Spalding III

The new owners of the Carter Estate in Upper Nuuanu have undertaken restoration of the historic home “down to the last detail” in collaboration with the architectural firm Welch and Weeks. Rich and Brendan Ethington acquired the palatial mansion in 2010 from Dave Dressell, who had lived in the house for 30 years and worked intermittently on renovations. In 1982 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The largest private home in Honolulu with 30,000 square feet under roof, “Lihiwai” was designed by architects Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Hardie Phillip for Governor George R. Carter and his wife Helen Strong Carter, an Eastman Kodak heiress. The Goodhue firm, based in New York City, had been hired by Academy of Arts founder Anna Rice Cooke to design the structure that replaced the family’s Beretania Street home. When Goodhue died unexpectedly in 1924, Phillip completed several major Honolulu projects, including the Academy of Arts, the C. Brewer Building, and the Old Pali Road estate of Clarence Hyde Cooke, which has been listed for sale.

The Carters moved into the house in 1930. After Mrs. Carter’s death in 1946, it was utilized by the U. S. military as an R&R facility, portions of the property were sold and subdivided, and the house fell into disrepair. Dedicated owners have invested millions in bringing it back to its original grandeur.

Rich Ethington, a general contractor and owner of RJE Construction, said, “Brendan and I are passionate about restoration. The Carter house is our sixth project with Welch and Weeks. Together we rebuilt our Kaikoo Place house, originally designed by Ossipoff Snyder & Rowland and now on the market. A Kahala home we entered in the new construction category in the BIA’s 2012 Hawaii Renaissance competition won the Grand Overall Award. For the Carter house we also consulted with architect Spencer Leineweber, a historic properties specialist, and incorporated some of her ideas into the plans.

“We’re restoring Lihiwai structure by structure and room by room, including all electrical wiring, plumbing, and appliances. Kitchens and baths are being totally redone. Wherever possible, we try to locate or duplicate period fixtures. The entire house is being repainted. New flooring similar to the original slate panels is being installed and the roof has been redone with cedar shake, the original material.”

The gardens of the two-acre property, which include rare plants and trees, are also being restored along with rock walls and walking paths. The original swimming pool was built into Nuuanu Stream which runs through the property, but Ethington plans to build a modern swimming pool. The pool house has become a guest cottage. The three level main house will include a media and game room in the basement, living and dining areas on the main floor, four bedroom/bath suites, sitting rooms, offices, and service quarters…a total of 40 rooms.

The Ethingtons’ Kaikoo property, one of the most architecturally distinguished homes in the area, has been listed for sale by Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties.

“When you enter the walled, gated property, you’re in a private world,” said Realtor Maggie Walker. “When you enter the house itself from the garden lanai, you are immediately struck by the quality of the design and finishes – old growth koa and Shells Reef flooring, Murano glass light fixtures, a stunning koa staircase, to name a few.

“The large open kitchen has been equipped with top of the line appliances. In addition to the expansive main living and dining areas, which open to ocean and garden views, the home has a library, office, media room, and several bedroom suites. The master suite encompasses the entire upper level.

“At the apex of the property is the ‘tree house,’ ideal for guests or a caretaker. The swimming pool and spa are surrounded by tropical landscaping. A right of way to the ocean is just across the street. The home is a work of art.”

The 4,472 square foot home, augmented by 632 square feet of lanais plus parking for nine cars, is priced at $4,495,000 and shown by appointment.

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