Near Town Tours
Today, we will be on a learning tour. Don’t worry; it’s not boring or nerdy. We’ll visit the Jean P. Hayden Museum, the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center, the Feleti Barstow Public Library (after driving by the Executive Office Building) and then we’ll drive up to Solo Hill and see where the cable car once was and a monument. At some point we will have lunch at Sadie’s by the Sea or Sadie’s Restaurant at Sadie Thompson Inn. You’ll find all these items on the Sightseeing Map.
If you’re staying at Sadie’s by the Sea, you won’t have to find it. If you’re staying on the west side, you just take the Main Road toward Pago Pago Harbor and you will drive past Sadie’s – you can’t miss it. If you are staying at Tisa’s, Evalani’s or Scanlan’s, you will already have seen Sadie’s by the Sea and can easily find it. So, let’s start there.
First we’ll go to the museum. Leaving Sadie’s parking area, turn right onto the main road and drive maybe a mile. The museum will be on your right, across from a large two story building where the US Post Office and other things are. You might have to look for parking but there is plenty. Just be sure you don’t park where you might interfere with activities at the loading docks – you’ll see what I mean.
We’re now at the Jean P. Haydon Museum. The entrance is at the front and you are always welcome, although there might not be someone at the entrance to greet you.
The front portion of the building was originally the Commissary Store (Navy Bldg. No. 43) and was constructed in 1919. Workmen constructed its walls with locally-manufactured concrete blocks molded to imitate rough-cut stone. The rear portion was originally a garage (Navy Bldg. No. 24). By 1949 the Navy had converted this building into the Treasurer’s Office. After the Department of the Interior took over the Naval Station in 1951, the former commissary became the Pago Pago Post Office. In 1971, the new Post Office across the street was constructed, and then Governor Haydon decided to convert the commissary and the garage into a single structure to house a museum. Hydon’s wife, Jean P. Haydon, was instrumental in starting the new museum with a collection of local art and artifacts. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as part of the Tutuila Naval Station Historic District.
The Museum is home to many historical artifacts, books, collections and gifts presented to the Territory. They frequently host special exhibitions
One exhibit of special note on display is a small American Samoa flag and three moon stones gifted to the American Samoa Government by President Richard Nixon following the return of one of the Apollo moon missions. The flag was carried to the moon by one of the astronauts [probably] on the Apollo 11 moon mission. The Apollo 13 moon mission splashed down near here and the astronauts stopped here before flying on to Hawaii. That was a big day in American Samoa.
You can see an exhibition of some amazing Pacific art that was on display during the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts, in 2008, at this link. The entire website that I created for the festival is available here. You can learn more about the history of Pago Pago, at the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO) website. The ASHPO website includes a walking tour that includes some historic sites in the general vicinity of the museum.
The Museum is open Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 4.00pm and is located in Fagatogo opposite the US Post Office.
Next, we will go to the Tauese P.F.Sunia Ocean Center. Leaving the museum, turn left on the main road and head back toward Sadie’s by the Sea.
The Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center is located near the Port Authority Warf and right next to Sadie’s, in Utulei.
The Ocean Center provides visitors and residents with opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural resources of American Samoa. The state-of-the-art facility features educational exhibits and interactive learning tools to promote ocean awareness and encourage good marine stewardship.
The exhibits are amazing. If you have any thoughts of doing a little snorkeling or scuba diving, you will want to see this first. You will want to ask questions about when and where to do your ocean exploring.
This center is sponsored by NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Learn more at this link.
The Ocean Center is open to the public from Monday-Friday 9am-4pm and Saturday 9am-12pm.
On the way to Feleti Barstow Public Library
Next, we will go to the Library and see some interesting things along the way.
Turn left leaving the Ocean Center. Sadie’s will be on your left. On your right will be the Lt. Governor’s residence, then the DOE offices with the television studios just behind. Learn more here.
Next, on your right will be Lee Auditorium, built in 1965, by and named for Governor H. Rex Lee. The building was extended and substantially upgraded in 2008 for the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts.
On you left, will be Utulei Beach Park and the Samoan style houses (Fale).
Back on your right will be Samoana High School gym and playing field.
Next, on your right will be the Centennial Building, where Bank of Hawaii and several business offices are located.
You want to turn right at the Centennial Building. The Executive Office Building will be on your left. You’ll see the Wyland mural. The Wyland mural is beautiful and interesting. The best vantage point for taking pictures of the Wyland mural is at the library playground. Or, you can just walk across the street and do a selfie.
The library will be to the right.
Feleti Barstow Public Library
The Feleti Barstow Public Library is a center for lifelong learning dedicated to meeting the informational, technological, and cultural needs of all age groups by providing both current and historical reading and instructional materials in a variety of formats. Learn more here.
The FBPL opened on April 17, 2000. Frederic Barstow visited American Samoa during the 1920’s and established a foundation to help with the educational needs of American Samoans. He was known locally as Feleti Barstow. Read more about the Barstow Foundation here.
We’ll just make a quick stop here to familiarize you with the resources, in case you want to come back and spend more time.
Now we’re going up Solo Hill to have a look at the monument and the old cable car landing. We’ll have a little walk around the area and you might want to venture up to the Samoan style house above the cable car landing area. This is a delightful spot and there is some interesting history to take in.
Turn right as you leave the library and follow the road that curves right behind the library and the school. In about 200 yards, you will see a narrow, steep paved road on your left. Turn up that road and follow it, always keeping to your right at forks, until you see the monument straight in front of you.
The monument is in memory of the April 17, 1980, crash, of a U.S. Navy plane, into the Rainmaker Hotel, killing the six servicemen aboard and two tourists at the hotel. The crash occurred during Flag Day celebrations when the plane attempted to fly under the cable car cables spanning the harbor and caught the vertical stabilizer on the cable. At that point, the plane was flipped sideways and thrown into the hotel. The original intent was to drop paratroopers over the Flag Day celebration area but it was too windy and the updrafts in the harbor area made parachuting inadvisable.
Further up the road, you will see what remains of the old cable car landing and one of the cable cars. From that vantage point you can look up to the television transmitter towers, atop Mt. Alava. You can see the last cable still hanging there. Built in 1965 to carry technicians to the TV transmitters on Mount Alava, the cableway across Pago Pago Harbor was once the longest single-span aerial tramway in the world.
At the very top of Solo Hill is a nice Samoan style house. You need to walk up to the house and enjoy the garden along the way. The view from the top is quite nice, although last time I was there the jungle had grown to block most of the view.
I hope you enjoyed your day.