At Home: Untouched by Time

A historic Olinda home is a portal to the past.

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Olinda home
Upstairs, design takes a geometric turn accentuated by the bold Navajo rug, one of many treasures Ethel and Harry Baldwin collected during their travels on the West Coast. Opposite a wooden railing carved with stylized flowers, wall-length bookshelves hold classic volumes that adults in the family read as children.

For a time, Harry, Ethel, and their three children would journey on horseback 4,000 feet up the mountain to the winding dirt road that led to the Olinda house, with food and supplies trailing behind them in an oxcart. The eventual purchase of an automobile made the trek infinitely less arduous, and the horses were relegated to stables on the property.

The youngest of Harry and Ethel’s children, Frances, was Claire’s grandmother. She owned the property until the 1970s before passing it on to Claire’s mother, Maizie Cameron Sanford, and uncle, Colin Cameron.

Claire grew up on O‘ahu, but spent nearly every holiday and summer in Olinda. At times, the home would host up to twenty people, and no matter the occasion—or decade—it was filled with merriment. “Besides Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving parties, there were wonderful long vacations with aunts, uncles, cousins, and always an assortment of interesting guests,” Claire recalls. “It’s had its share of honeymooners, including my parents.”

The grand living room has the feel of a hunting lodge, with wood-beamed ceilings, a red-brick fireplace and cushioned, built-in window benches. There, Claire would spend long summer evenings toasting marshmallows, reading by candlelight (aside from the kitchen, the house didn’t have electricity until 1970), or challenging her siblings and cousins to a round of Monopoly or Sardines (a variation of hide-and-seek). “There were so many nooks and crannies we could wedge ourselves into—you just had to stop yourself from giggling so you wouldn’t give away your hiding spot,” she laughs.

Olinda home
Antiques and cherished family heirlooms lend the grand living room the ambiance of an earlier era—when they were new.

Ethel chose the home’s décor, and with the exception of the sofas (there have been several iterations over the years), family heirlooms are everywhere, from the Victrola in the living room to the high chair in the dining room to the sumptuous chaise in one of the bedrooms. “There is . . . comfort and nostalgia in being able to step back in time,” says Claire, “of being able to walk into the house and recognize its particular smell, of pulling a book from the bookcase as an adult and remembering reading it as a child, or looking at photos and objects [that] have been in more or less the same spot for 100 years.”

Marvels abound: A trove of old magazines—from Vogue to Good Housekeeping—lines the shelves of a walk-in hall closet. (Claire says the periodicals so intrigued one houseguest that the woman wrote a book about them.) In the living room, a writing desk opens to reveal still-half-full bottles of Carter’s writing fluid and Harry and Ethel’s personalized stationery. The bathrooms have original claw-footed tubs, and cabinets stocked with rarely seen items, like World War II-era boxes of Red Cross bandages and bottles of smelling salts.

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