Shipman House

131 Ka‛iulani St., Hilo, Island of Hawaii

Shipman House is no longer a hotel, but does rent some private rooms via Airbnb.

Historic B&Bs are rare in Hawaii; appealing ones even rarer. To be fair, the Shipman House, in the old sugar town of Hilo, sets the bar impossibly high. A capacious late-Victorian landmark, turret and all, is a sunny and immaculate treasure chest run with quiet grace by Barbara Ann Anderson and her husband. She’s the great-granddaughter of Willie Shipman, a well-to-do cattle rancher who bought the house in 1901 (two years after it was built), and his socialite wife, Mary, who turned it into the place to be in Hilo. Jack London stayed for several weeks in the downstairs guest quarters, formerly the billiards room. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, dropped by regularly to play the Steinway piano, which still sits in the living room, just beneath the bay windows. Many pieces of furniture, including the glossy koa-wood headboards and tables, date back to those early Shipman days when the ballroom, now guest rooms, was put to good use. Vintage family photos, Japanese block prints, wooden turned bowls, and countless other curiosities fill all the nooks and crannies, but it’s all too well curated to feel cluttered. Surrounding the house is a wide, shady lanai, where a row of rocking chairs overlooks the Andersons’ meticulously tended gardens and the wild-as-can-be gulch that runs just beside the house. In the distance is the blue of Hilo Bay.

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