Step back in time at the Marks Estate


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All photos by Melissa Chang

If these walls could talk, the historic Clarence Hyde Cooke House, also known as The Marks Estate, would have an amazing story to tell. Built in 1932 for the heir to the Castle & Cooke fortune, this mansion on Old Pali Road has been through its fair share of noteworthy owners and events.

I was fortunate to see it in person yesterday, at one of a few rare brokers' opens, as the property is now for sale for $9.5 million (click here for details). We entered with two Beijing botanists, who made a special trek to get to this event so they could document the landscaping; apparently the eccentric botanist Joseph Rock, who is famous in China, had planted a variety of flora around the estate in the 1940s.

If the grand estate looks familiar, it's because it was designed by architect Hardie Phillip, who also designed the Honolulu Academy of Arts. You'll see the distinctive double-pitched "Dickey Roof," which is a signature element of architect C.W. Dickey.

Not much is said about the period that Cooke lived there, but the home was purchased in 1946 by Elizabeth and Lester Marks, who was a land commissioner for the Hawaiian Territory. Mr. Marks resigned in 1949 when when Governor Ingram Stainback decided to build a new Pali Highway up Nuuanu Valley, right through the middle of their estate. They sued to block the use of their land for the highway, but in 1956 the Territory bought the estate for $624,000 and allowed the Marks family to live in the home until 1976, when Mrs. Marks—by then a widow—was evicted. (Not to worry, she was able to land on her feet with a nice Black Point home.)

The State government then used the estate for office space, conferences, and special events, and it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. After trying to sell it for years, the State finally auctioned off the property in 2002. It had been appraised for $4.5 million, but labor union Unity House Inc. was able to buy it for $2.5 million.

The current owner spends much of his time on the mainland and isn't able to devote as much time to the house as he would like, so has put it up for sale. If you get to look at the house and the sprawling grounds, you'll see that it shows like a museum, with antique art pieces—all sold separately—inside and out. In fact, there are some pieces that Clarence Cooke himself painted, which might make good conversation when you hold your garden soiree there. There's even an unusual Steinway piano, made (we think) in 1846, that is a work of art in itself. It still works, though, as you can see in this video.

The home has 10 bedrooms, seven full bathrooms and two half baths. The original carriage house, which can be used for modern cars, of course, still stands, as does the caretaker's cottage at the front.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the property spans 206,522 square feet. Just to get to the pool, you need to go around the carriage house, through a forested path, across a bridge and up a small hill.

There are other little unusual bits to the house, as you'll see in my additional photos, here. To get a sense of the history of this home, you can even check out its Facebook page and the old photos they've posted.

Money talk: $9.5 million
Contact: Dave Dickey, Century 21 All Islands, 808-852-8833, c21davedickey@gmail.com
Alisa Nakamoto, Century 21 All Islands, 808-780-8110, Alisa.Nakamoto.c21@gmail.com

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