Down-Home History

Anna Ranch Heritage Center opens its doors to those interested in Island life

By: Marty Wentzel

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Anna Ranch is located on 110 acres.
Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske insisted on calling herself a cowboy, not a cowgirl. She could mend fences with the best of them, and she wasn’t afraid to wield a branding iron or ride a Brahma bull 10 times her weight. Much more than a rancher, however, the spirited Big Island legend who lived from 1900-1995 stood out from the crowd as a community leader, humanitarian, licensed butcher, winning jockey, fashion monger and high-society hostess.

All of those personalities come to life at a new attraction called Anna Ranch Heritage Center, open since September on a 110-acre spread in the upcountry town of Waimea. During tours of the restored ranch house, built in 1910 and listed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places, clients can see furnishings and collectables arranged as if Perry-Fiske herself had invited them over for a visit.

Anna Ranch Heritage Center executive director Momi Naughton said Perry-Fiske wanted her home turned into a museum when she died, so that visitors could learn about the area’s rich ranching heritage. To that end, Naughton and her associates accepted the herculean task of preserving the treasures accumulated during Perry-Fiske’s lifetime. The goal, said Naughton, was to chart the history of the ranch, from the story of Perry-Fiske’s ancestors who lived there from the 1840s, to her life with her second husband of 34 years, Lyman Perry-Fiske.

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Items in the house reflect Anna’s interests.
“We wanted to give each room a theme,” said Naughton, “paying tribute to the various members of Anna’s family as well as those things that were important to her.” On the porch, for instance, clients see her father’s desk and her mother’s tatting, with handmade pillows dating back to the 1920s. The living room honors the family’s love of music, with a player piano surrounded by photographs of her brothers; 1943 sheet music dedicated to Perry-Fiske by songwriter Johnny Noble; and a rare music box dating back to 1900, still in working condition. The saddle room showcases the many rigs used by the accomplished rider, while shelves of cowboy boots stand at attention in case their owner should still need them.

From room to room, it’s clear that Perry-Fiske was a lover of style. In her bedroom, a mannequin displays a ruby-colored dress, one of many that she designed herself, while fashionable hats appear ready for her to pick out for a special occasion. In a room filled with riding trophies, clients can see her rhinestone costume made by Nudies Rodeo Tailors of Hollywood, which created clothes for the likes of Roy Rogers and Elvis Presley. Perry-Fiske’s worldliness shines through in the dining room, where collections of Asian China and art pieces sparkle in koa-wood cases.

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Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske
In the dining room hangs a huge portrait of the elegant Perry-Fiske demonstrating pau, a uniquely Hawaiian style of horsemanship and pageantry. Dubbed the Queen of Pau Riders, she shared the tradition with the world and, in 1971, participated as the first pau rider in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. In the 1970s, Perry-Fiske combined her love of pau with her dedication to charitable causes by launching a yearly fundraiser for the American Heart Association. Called Old Hawaii on Horseback, the event drew thousands of spectators to her spacious front yard, where costumed equestrians acted out the history of the islands. Naughton expects to recreate the event each year, with next year’s slated for Aug. 16.

Plans call for the opening of Anna Ranch’s historic barn to feature hands-on activities that appeal to children. An adjacent teahouse, graced with expansive views of lush green hills, has already been restored for weddings and corporate meetings.

Naughton sees the heritage center as a perfect option for clients with an interest in the culture and history of the area.

Seniors and nostalgia buffs are a natural market for the attraction, she said.

“On each tour, we try to find out what the clients’ interests are,” said Naughton. “Anna was a woman of such diversity that we can always make a connection between our present-day guests and the grand lady whose home they are visiting.”


Anna Ranch Heritage Center

One-hour tours are offered each Wed. at 10 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m., and Sat. at 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The cost is $7 per person.


Three days each week starting Jan. 7, Aloha Airlines’ new nonstop service from San Diego to Kona touches down on the Big Island at 11:55 a.m., giving clients the entire afternoon and evening to start their vacation activities. Convenient return flights leave Kona at 3:55 p.m. On alternate days, the carrier stops on Kauai. The airline also uses a plane painted by marine life artist Wyland.