Hawaii’s hippie nudist camp with ties to Hollywood royalty

Where the road ends on Kauai’s North Shore, a group of hippies in the early 1970s lived in an off-the-grid treehouse community, grew long hair, smoked weed, and opted for go naked

Taylor Camp, as it would be known, was named after Kauai resident Howard Taylor, brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor. Howard owned the 7 acres of land in Haena, a picturesque coastline of white sand beaches, turquoise waters and a tropical abundance of streams, caves and green cliffs. It was in 1969 that Howard took in homeless men, women and children to live on his beachfront property, with no rules and no rent to pay.

“We haven’t had any problems,” Howard said in a 1970 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article. “Most of them are here as they decide to go back to the ‘establishment’ world and what they want to do there.”

The arrival of hippies to Kauai in the 1960s was the island’s introduction to the Western counterculture, people who challenged social norms, and there were many members of the public and politicians who complained and hated the camp’s existence. At its peak, Taylor Camp’s population grew to about 100 people, living in about two dozen structures. People continued to live there until 1977, when the county raided and burned the houses.

Located on Kauai's North Shore, Taylor Camp was located on Limahuli Stream in Haena, a coastline with white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Taylor Camp was located on Limahuli Stream in Haena, a coastline with white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

They came from Berkeley

When Howard moved to Kauai, he never expected to create a hippie community. He had been living on Oahu, working at the University of Hawaii, and fell in love with the Garden Island. He bought beachfront property in Haena, moved his family to Kauai and planned to build a home for his wife and five children.

“He was an oceanographer and cartographer, and a very talented artist,” photographer John Wehrheim told SFGATE in a call from Bhutan. Wehrheim met Taylor and visited the camp many times. He published a book and produced a documentary about Taylor Camp, interviewing and photographing many of its residents.

“They bought the property, they couldn’t get the building permit, no one would tell him why. They were giving him the old local-style stall,” continues Wehrheim. “Eventually he found out that the state had plans to create a state park out of that land, because you know where it is, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world “.

Howard Taylor owned the land Taylor Camp was on and offered it to the hippies when he found he couldn't build his family home there.  Newspaper clipping via newspapers.com

Howard Taylor owned the land Taylor Camp was on and offered it to the hippies when he found he couldn’t build his family home there. Newspaper clipping via newspapers.com

newspapers.com

Left in limbo with no way forward, Howard bought land elsewhere on the island and abandoned his Haena land, until he found purpose there in 1969. That’s when he learned that 13 hippie campers , men, women and children, were arrested. on the island for vagrancy on a beach near Lihue after overstaying his permit. A judge sentenced them all to 90 days in jail.

“These people were from Berkeley, I think there were thirteen of them, they were having a lot of trouble,” Tommy Taylor, Howard’s son, said in Wehrheim’s book. “My father was worried about these people. The local boys were beating them up. I think one of the women had been raped and there were a lot of letters to the editor saying, ‘We have to put them on a plane and send them back where they came from.”

Out of a desire to help and, as some alleged, out of spite, Howard and his wife picked them all up from prison and brought them to their Haena property to live. He enjoyed the company of the campers, some of whom were highly trained. “The campers wanted to escape the continent, the political situation, the Vietnam War. They were dropping out, trying to get away, and these people found Kauai,” Tommy said.



Elizabeth Taylor visited Howard in Kauai during Christmas 1969; that was the last time Howard was seen at the camp. Word soon spread about Taylor Camp. People from all over the world found themselves there, sometimes by chance, sometimes by word of mouth.

Diane Patalano and Richie Palumbo lived in a treehouse at Taylor Camp.

Diane Patalano and Richie Palumbo lived in a treehouse at Taylor Camp.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

A camp without rules

The original 13 didn’t stay long, but a new wave of people took their place, including hippies, surfers, vets, a doctor and lawyers, who kept the camp going and created its free lifestyle.

“It was a great experimental living situation. There were no rules. You didn’t sign anything when you walked in the door, it just unfolded, it happened naturally,” Cherry Hamilton told Wehrheim in the book, who moved to Kauai from Miami.

“There was a co-op. There was a church,” he continued. “There would be wild full moon parties, thirty foot waves running under our houses, bongos playing madly at midnight and babies being born.”

This map of Taylor Camp was created by Big Island artist and former Taylor Camp resident Patricia Leo, providing a snapshot of the village.

This map of Taylor Camp was created by Big Island artist and former Taylor Camp resident Patricia Leo, providing a snapshot of the village.

Drawn by Patricia Leo/Courtesy of John Wehrheim

Over the years, the camp created its own water and disposal system. It had a community restroom and negotiated with the county for a local school bus stop and garbage collection. Meanwhile, newspapers focused their attention on the use of marijuana in the camp, the potential for disease, and the complaints of politicians.

“The guy who built his legal and political career on hating hippies was the [Kauai] mayor,” says Wehrheim.

Apart from the government, there were also residents who complained. The Hanalei Community Association sent a letter to the county in 1970 writing that the camp was likely a “breeding ground for disease, immorality and drug abuse and may also serve as a sanctuary for criminals”.

Taylor Camp attracted its share of unsavory characters, but those kinds of people didn’t last long, Wehrheim says, and they got “excited” because it was a small, tight-knit community.

“There were drug addicts, there were heroin addicts, there were people selling cocaine in the last few days when this happened,” says Wehrheim. “But there were drug addicts and alcoholics and cocaine dealers in every community in Hawaii at that time.”

Wehrheim says Taylor Camp was generally full of positive people, and to describe them all as stoned hippies would be a misnomer. There was one especially for surfing. Others worked, like Diane Daniells, who lived at Taylor Camp while reportedly founding the first Montessori school on Kauai.

Diane Daniells in the kitchen of her tree house.  At age 20, he started a school in Hanalei.

Diane Daniells in the kitchen of her tree house. At age 20, he started a school in Hanalei.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

“There were a lot of people, as you’ll see in the film, who did really good things in their communities,” he says. “Victor Schaub, the original guy who stood up in court and said, ‘Let’s take the 90 days,’ not only ended up being a very successful lawyer when he came back to California, but he was the mayor of Arcata, California, for 10 years or 15 years”.

“Then they set fire to the place”

Although the Taylors had never been involved with the camp since 1969, Howard expressed his views on the condemnation of their land and the eviction of people.

“I think there should be a place where people can go without needing permits,” Howard said in a 1971 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article. The land “should be open for fishermen to camp on, or anybody else. A lot of these people couldn’t stay anywhere else. Nobody’s going to rent to them.”

Sunrise at Limahuli Creek, where it flows into the ocean.

Sunrise at Limahuli Creek, where it flows into the ocean.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

The state eventually condemned Howard’s land and added it to its inventory to create what is now Haena State Park. Notices to evict were sent to all current residents of Taylor Camp, and a lawsuit resulted. Representing 60 residents, the suit challenged the eviction, claiming they were eligible for relocation assistance.

In the end, a judge ruled that anyone who moved into the camp after 1972, when the state’s condemnation process began, was a trespasser and ineligible for aid. He ruled that the campers violated the regulations because they did not have a residential use permit on conservation-zoned land, even though they had never been prosecuted for zoning or building there in the past. He also ruled that the Taylors’ abandonment approach did not mean they were granted permission to live there.

The last residents were evicted in 1977. State and county crews burned the houses.

Alpin Noble at the front door of his family's home in Taylor Camp.

Alpin Noble at the front door of his family’s home in Taylor Camp.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

“I didn’t want Taylor Camp to close,” Alpin Noble told Wehrheim in his book. When he arrived at the camp he was 3 years old, one of the few children who grew up there. “It was our house, where we lived, where all our friends were. When they set fire to the Camp, I was traumatized. One boy refused to leave and the police handcuffed his arms and legs and dragged him away screaming and shouting. They then set fire to the place.

“I always thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be here forever.’ There’s no way they can move us,” he said. “I thought I was going to live at Taylor Camp forever.”

Source

Leave a Comment