9 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawaii
This annual list, compiled by the Historic Hawaii foundation, in cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Division, selects some of Hawaii's most endangered historic places.
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The Hawaii Medical Library (Honolulu, Oahu)
Photo by Rae Huo
What is it?
Renowned Hawaii architect Vladimir Ossipoff (see related story on page 28) designed this building in 1959 as a permanent home for the Hawaii Medical Library, which had been forced to move seven times since its founding in 1913. Today the library’s historic collections serve as invaluable resources for medical students.
What threatens it?
Squeezed onto a dense urban campus, The Queen’s Medical Center has long been short on parking, with many employees waiting years for a space. The hospital desperately needs a new multilevel parking structure, and with no free space left on campus, the Medical Library is seen as the most expendable building. Mark Yamakawa, the chief operating officer of Queen’s Health Systems, says the hospital is reluctant to tear down the library, but says, “Queen’s infrastructure is already at capacity, particularly with regard to parking. We need to look to the future.”
What can be done?
Yamakawa says that Queen’s first choice of sites for its parking structure is right next door—a surface parking lot belonging to the Board of Water Supply. Not only is the location conveniently close to the rest of the Queen’s campus, it would obviate the need to tear down the Medical Library. The Board of Water Supply, however, remains noncommittal about its plans for the asphalt lot. “We’re evaluating the possibility of redeveloping this piece of property,” says spokesperson Su Shin. “Once we decide what we want to do, we would lay out all the criteria and put it out for public bidding, as required by law.”
Yamakawa worries that the public auction would price the lot beyond Queen’s budget. “As a healthcare provider, our larger interest is in the good of the community,” he says. Translation: the Medical Library could be on the chopping block.
by Jenny de Jesús and Michael Keany
Photo: Augie Salbosa
The Walker Estate (Nuuanu, Oahu)
One of the most endangered items on last year’s list now appears to be safe and sound—for the moment, at least. As it turns out, TR Partners, the development company that threw local preservationists into a tizzy by applying for demolition permits for the historic Walker residence, never finalized its purchase of the property. Holy-Eye, an affiliate of a Taiwan-based church, still owns the estate, and hasn’t applied for permits to tear anything down.
Photo: Rae Huo
Sanju Pagoda, Honolulu Memorial Park (Nuuanu, Oahu)
According to Honolulu Memorial Park president Vick Hejmadi, fundraising efforts continue and initial repairs are being made to the pagoda and surrounding areas. Hejmadi hopes the structure will look noticeably better in six months and says there are even plans to build a visitor center adjacent to the pagoda. Former city councilman Rod Tam completed his business/maintenance plan for the pagoda and is no longer involved with the park; however, he questions whether the park can afford the repairs.
Photo: Matt Thayer
Puunene Congregational Church (Puunene, Maui)
After our coverage of the church last year, Derek Heafey of Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company received numerous phone calls from local residents hoping the church wouldn’t be demolished. “You folks got people all worked up,” Heafey jokes. Luckily, Big Island contractor Tom Quinlan has found a way to move the building—in one piece—half a mile down the road to the King’s Cathedral Church. The 90-foot by 40-foot structure includes a nearly 70-foot steeple, which means power lines along the route will need to be moved. The move will be the largest of its kind ever to occur in Hawaii. Currently finishing up the permitting process, the church could be moved as soon as this month.
The Queen’s Theater (Kaimuki, Oahu)
A year later, there have been no known renovations to the vacant theater. Reclusive owner Narciso Yu still cannot be reached.
Photo: Rae Huo
The Plantation Manager’s Mansion (Ewa Plantation Villages, Oahu)
Tom Berg, president of the Ewa Historical Society, says that there is $200,000 available for the mansion’s improvements. However, according to him, it is unclear whether or not the funds have been released for use by the city council.
Photo: David Cornwell
The Kokee Leaseholders Association is still in litigation with the state over the fate of the cabins. Last December, Supreme Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe ruled that the residents of the Kokee cabins never actually owned them. A third of the cabin residents have appealed the ruling. It may be two to three more years before we learn the ending to this story.
Photo: David and Sue Boynton
The Gulick-Rowell House (Waimea, Kauai)
The Gulick-Rowell House is still owned by the Fayé family. Linda Fayé Collins, President of the Kikiaola Land Company, says the family is still debating the feasibility of various courses that they might take to preserve the house. Two possibilities being considered include establishing a foundation to create a historic house museum or adapting the building to useas a bed and breakfast, residence or office.
Photo courtesy Arleone Dibben-Young
The Mapulehu Glass House (Mapulehu, Molokai)
According to Ka Hale Pomaikai executive administrator Shari Lynn, the Glass House continues to deteriorate. With no one able to care for the house, trespassing and vandalism continue on a regular basis. Lynn has chosen to concentrate on helping clients of her program rather than battle resistance from activists on the condition of the house.
Lanai City (Lanai)
Castle and Cooke continues to put up new houses within this historic plantation town, often at the expense of existing structures. Of particular note is an affordable housing project on the grounds of the old seasonal housing, which had been one of the few large vacant parcels left within the city boundaries. On a more positive note, Castle and Cooke is working with the non-profit Lanai Culture and Heritage Center to create a new museum and resource center at the top of Dole Park, which will preserve and honor the small town’s unique history.
Interested in learning more about historic structures in Hawai‘i?
More information on our partner for this feature, Historic Hawaii Foundation, and its programs, can be found at www.historichawaii.org, or by calling 523-2900.