THE EDGE OF PARADISE
Taylor Camp Kauai 1969-1977
by John Wehrheim
Treehouse in SALT Kaka'ako Dec. 2, 2023 - January 4, 2024
Join us for the Opening Reception & Book Signing on Sunday, Dec 3, 2023, 6-8pm. John will be present for the reception.
Kauai, 1969 - Taylor Camp was the ultimate hippie fantasy: a pot-friendly, clothing optional treehouse village at the end of the road on Kauai's north shore. Started in 1969 by Howard Taylor, actress Elizabeth's younger brother, the camp ended in 1977, when state officials burned it to the ground. The Kauai that the campers experienced was an anomaly, a brief period of low population and natural abundance - a breathing space as the engine of the plantation economy wound down while the real estate bonanza, along with the financial, ecological, and cultural assault of mass tourism, had yet to begin.
Thirteen Berkley students - free speech refugees from campus riots, Vietnam War protests and police brutality - fled to Kauai. Before long, this little tribe of men, women, and children, poor and homeless, were arrested for vagrancy and sentenced to ninety-days hard labor. Faced with a crumbling jail lacking security, staff and budget, county officials panicked - realizing they were now saddled with the expense of feeding, clothing, and guarding this motley crew. Howard, a libertarian, outraged by the county's persecution of these young people, asked the judge to release them to his custody. The judge agreed, and Howard invited the group to camp on the vacant beachfront land he owned across the bay from his family's place. He then left the campers to themselves, without any rules, or directions. Within a year, the area became known as Taylor Camp, attracting surfers, hippies, locals, and veterans from the war raging in Vietnam.
Eight years later, after condemning Howard's property to make way for a state park, government officials torched the tree houses, leaving only ashes and memories of "The best days of our lives."
Built on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Taylor Camp was an unintentional community - a village that welcomed all races, religions, nationalities, and genders. Through interviews thirty years later, after author/photographer john Wehrheim tracked down the cameras, their neighbors and the government officials who finally got rid of them, we come to understand the significance of Taylor Camp's existence - one of the most remote, extraordinary and symbolic examples of the worldwide 60's youth culture.