George Lycurgus was born in 1858 in Vasara, Greece, which was near Sparta. Sparta as we know from the movie 300 was home to fierce Greek warriors who were known as the Spartans. Their claim to fame is that 300 Spartans and 7,000 other warriors held off an army of 300,000 Persians in the battle of Thermopylae.
An Accidental Voyage to Hawaii
Lycurgus, accidentally came to Hawaii for the first time in 1889. While loading a cargo boat that was bound for Hawaii, he was invited aboard for a poker game. It must have been an exciting game because he didn’t notice that the ship had set sail with him still aboard it.
The Duke of Sparta (Who Lived in Hilo)
He opened one of the first resorts in Waikiki and one of his frequent guests was the Kalakaua family who were Hawaiian Royalty. His friendship with the royal family was how he was nicknamed the “Duke of Sparta”.
In 1894, he landed in Hilo for the first time aboard the USS Philadelphia on his way to visit Volcano for the first time. He liked the Volcano so much thoughts of business opportunities there spun in his head.
Hilo Resident Accused of Treason
After the 1895 Counter-Revolution of Hawaii, Lycurgus was accused of smuggling guns for the Royalists and charged with treason. He was put in jail for 52 days, but nothing came of the charges.
Throwing Gin into the Volcano
In 1904, Lycurgus and his nephew took control of the Volcano House Company and in 1906 he worked with Lorrin Thurston to have the volcano area developed into Volcano National Park. One of the traditions that he started was tossing bottles of gin into the volcano. Obviously not everyone was happy about this.