Queen Kaʻahumanu (1768–1832) visited Maui in February 1832, just months before she died, to support the
construction of a new fort to protect the town from whalers. With her help, Hoapili (1775–1840), Royal
Governor of Maui, built the fort on the Lahaina waterfront and it was completed within a month. The fort was
constructed from coral blocks with walls approximately 15–20 feet high topped with 47 cannons. An 1848
inventory lists 6 large cannons, 21 small cannons, 6 breech-loaders, and 8 which did not work. The fort stored
quantities of gunpowder, guns, rifles, and swords, and was used as a prison. Sailors who docked at Lahaina
were subject to a sunset curfew; it they did not return to their ship when the drums sounded they would be
imprisoned in the fort.
In 1841, American naval officer Charles Wilkes (1798–1877) visited Lahaina Fort as commanding officer of the
United States Exploring Expedition. Wilkes observed, "After the king's palace, the fort is the most conspicuous
object: it is of little account, however, as a defence, serving chiefly to confine unruly subjects and sailors in.
As the whaling industry declined and the California Gold Rush gained prominence in the late 1840s, Hawaii's
population dropped, and infectious disease epidemics contributed to the loss of local populations. The fort was
restored in 1847 but was now used more as a prison than for defending the Kingdom. The cannons were
rusting and the fort was mostly empty of personnel except for a few soldiers and the Governor of Maui who
lived there. When Henry Augustus Wise visited in 1848, he met James Young (1797–1851), then Governor of
Maui, who was living in the fort.
Wise wrote that it was: "an oddly assorted battery of some thirty pieces of artillery, of all sorts of carriages and
calibre—long, short, and mediums; they command the usual anchorage, and no doubt do very well to prevent
any acts of violence from merchant ships; but it is a question, if, at the second discharge of shot, they do not
tumble to pieces."
In the 1850s, whaling began its steep decline. The forts in the Hawaiian Islands were in poor condition due to
damage and neglect, and were either abandoned or removed. Lahaina Fort was demolished in 1854. Its coral
blocks were reused to build Hale Paʻahao, a new prison at Wainee Street and Prison Road. In 1964, the State
Parks Department placed a reconstruction of the old fort wall in the southwest corner of the park.