Kaumakapili Church


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Photo: David Franzen, Courtesy Mason Architects, Inc.

Since we last visited Kaumakapili Church in our May 2002 “King Street” issue, the church has been renovated inside in and out. The project took an incredible commitment from both the congregation and preservation architects, Mason Architects Inc. “We did a Historic Structures Report for Kaumakapili in 1993,” recalls project architect Barbara Shideler, AIA. “Then the congregation spent 10 years raising the money for the work.”

This Gothic-Revival Church was built in its present Kalihi-Palama location in 1911, replacing an 1888 church on Smith and Beretania streets, which had been destroyed in the Chinatown fire of 1900. Kaumakapili’s roots go back even further, to an 1838 adobe church at the Chinatown location, originally built for Congregational Native Hawaiian makaainana, or commoners, since the even older Kawaihao Church served the alii.

Among the interesting stories behind Kaumakapili’s $2.4 million restoration is the saga of its stained-glass windows. Over the years, vandals had destroyed 42 windows. Old photos showed what these lost windows had looked like, but not what color they were. Fortunately, one elderly parishioner stepped forward—she had saved shards from the broken windows. Thanks to her, the replacement windows could be built in their true colors.

The church was rededicated in January, and won a Historic Preservation Honor Award from the Historic Hawaii Foundation in May. Visit in person to get the full effect—it’s open every Sunday, with a worship service at 10:30 a.m. 766 N. King St., 845-0908.

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