close
close

The hippie nudist camp in Hawaii with ties to Hollywood royalty

Where the road ends on Kauai’s North Shore, in the early 1970s a group of hippies lived in an off-grid community of tree houses, grew their hair long, smoked weed, and chose to be naked.

Taylor Camp, as it became known, was named after Howard Taylor of Kauai, brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor. Howard owned 7 acres of land in Haena, a scenic coastline of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and a tropical profusion of creeks, caves and verdant cliffs. In 1969, Howard welcomed homeless men, women, and children to his beachfront property with no rules or paying rent.

“We had no problems,” Howard said in a 1970 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article. “Most of them are just here while they decide to go back to the ‘establishment’ world and what they want to do there.”

The arrival of hippies in Kauai in the 1960s heralded the island’s Western counterculture, people who defied societal norms — and there were many members of the public and politicians who complained and hated the camp’s existence. In its heyday, Taylor Camp’s population grew to about 100 people living in about two dozen buildings. People lived there until 1977 when the county raided it and burned the houses down.

Taylor Camp is located on Kauai's North Shore along the Limahuli Stream in Haena, a coastline of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

Taylor Camp is located on Kauai’s North Shore along the Limahuli Stream in Haena, a coastline of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

They came from Berkeley

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

“He was an oceanographer and a cartographer and he was an extremely talented artist,” photographer John Wehrheim tells SFGATE on a call from Bhutan. Wehrheim knew 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 land, they didn’t get planning permission, nobody wanted to tell them why. They gave him the old local style stable,” Wehrheim continues. “He eventually found out the state had plans to build a state park on this land because you know where it is, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

Howard Taylor owned the land on which Taylor Camp was located and offered it for use by hippies when he found he could not build a home for his family there.  Newspaper clippings via Zeitungen.com

Howard Taylor owned the land on which Taylor Camp was located and offered it for use by hippies when he found he could not build a home for his family there. Newspaper clippings via Zeitungen.com

newspapers.com

Left in limbo with no way out, Howard bought land elsewhere on the island, abandoning his Haena land until he found a purpose for it in 1969. It was then that he learned that 13 hippie campers, men, women and children, had been arrested on the island for vagrancy on a beach near Lihue after overstaying their residency permits. A judge sentenced them all to 90 days in prison.

“These people came from Berkeley – I think there were thirteen – they had a lot of problems,” said Tommy Taylor, Howard’s son, in Wehrheim’s book. “My father was concerned about these people. Local guys beat them up. I think one of the women was raped and there were a lot of letters to the editor saying, ‘We should put them on a plane and send them back to where they came from.’”

Wanting to help, Howard and his wife, like some of the defendants, out of defiance, broke them all out of prison and took them to his Haena estate to live. He enjoyed the company of the campers, some of whom were highly educated. “The campers wanted to escape the mainland, the political situation, the Vietnam War. They broke off, tried to get away, and these people found Kauai,” Tommy said.



Elizabeth Taylor visited Howard on Kauai during the 1969 Christmas season; That was the last time Howard was seen at camp. Word soon spread about Taylor Camp. People from all over the world have found each other there, sometimes by accident, sometimes by word of mouth.

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

Diane Patalano and Richie Palumbo lived in a tree house 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 running and created its free-spirited lifestyle.

“It was a great experimental living situation. There were no rules. There wasn’t anything you signed when you walked in the door, it just unfolded — happened quite naturally,” Cherry Hamilton said in the book of Wehrheim, who had relocated to Kauai from Miami.

“There was a cooperative. There was a church,” she continued. “There were wild full moon parties, 30-foot waves crashing under our houses, bongos playing like crazy at midnight, and babies being born.”

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

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

Drawn by Patricia Leo/courtesy of John Wehrheim

Over the years, the camp created its own water system and landfill. It shared a toilet and negotiated with the county for a local school bus stop and garbage collection. Meanwhile, newspapers turned their attention to the camp’s use of marijuana, potential illnesses, and complaints from politicians.

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

In addition to the government, there were also neighbors who complained. The Hanalei Community Association sent a letter to the county in 1970, saying the camp was likely a “hotbed of disease, immorality, and drug abuse, and could also serve as a haven for criminals.”

Taylor Camp did attract its share of unsavory characters, but those types of people didn’t last long, says Wehrheim, and were “puked out” because it was a small, close-knit community.

“There were drug addicts, there were heroin addicts, there were people who later sold cocaine when that happened,” says Wehrheim. “But back then, every community in Hawaii had drug addicts, alcoholics, and cocaine dealers.”

According to Wehrheim, Taylor Camp was generally full of positive people — and to call them all stoned hippies would be a misnomer. They were specifically for surfing. Others worked, like Diane Daniells, who lived at Taylor Camp while she reportedly started Kauai’s first Montessori school.

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

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

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

“As you’ll see in the film, there were a lot of people doing really good things in their communities,” he says. “Victor Schaub, the original guy who stood in court and said, ‘We’ll take the 90 days,’ not only became a very successful attorney when he came back to California, but he was mayor of Arcata, California, for ten years or 15 Years.”

“Then they set the place on fire”

Although the Taylors had never been involved with the camp since 1969, Howard voiced his opinion on condemning his country and displacing the people.

“I think there should be a place where people can go without a permit,” Howard said in a 1971 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article. The land “should be open for fishermen to camp there – or anyone else. Many of these people could not stay anywhere else. No one will rent to them.”

Sunrise at the Limahuli Stream where it empties into the ocean.

Sunrise at the Limahuli Stream where it empties 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. Eviction notices were sent to all current residents of Taylor Camp and a legal battle ensued. The lawsuit, representing 60 residents, challenged the eviction, claiming they were entitled to relocation assistance.

In the end, a judge ruled that anyone who moved into the camp after 1972, when the state sentencing process began, was an intruder and ineligible for assistance. He ruled that the campers were breaking regulations because they did not have residential permits on conservation areas, even though they have never been prosecuted for zoning or building there in the past. He also ruled that the Taylors’ hands-off approach did not mean they were granted permission to live there.

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

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

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

Courtesy of John Wehrheim

“I didn’t want Taylor Camp to be closed,” Alpin Noble Wehrheim said in his book. She was 3 years old when she arrived at the camp, one of the few children growing up there. “It was our home, where we lived, where all our friends were. When they set fire to the camp, I was traumatized. One guy refused to leave and the police handcuffed his arms and legs and dragged him away screaming and screaming. Then they set the place on fire.

“I always thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to stay here forever. There’s no way they can take us out,” she said. “I thought I would live at Taylor Camp forever.”

Source