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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This annual list, compiled by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, in cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Division, selects some of Hawai‘i’s most endangered historic places. Although the sites vary in historic era, architectural style and original purpose—everything from a 152-year-old church to a recently-closed sugar mill—they all contribute to our understanding of Hawaii’s history. The heritage we preserve, and the stories told by these structures, help give Hawaii a sense of place, and a soul. While inclusion on this list does not automatically protect or preserve the sites, it’s our hope that it will raise awareness and inspire active participation in the community around us. On the following pages, learn more about this year’s nine most endangered historic sites in Hawai‘i, the threats to their survival and what can be done to save them. We haven’t forgotten about last year’s list, either; see the end of the story for updates on the Walker Estate, the Puunene Congregational Church and other historic places.

 

The Kalahikiola Congregational Church (Kohala, Big Island)

Kalahikiola Congregational Church

Photo by Macario

What is it?
This North Kohala church was founded by missionary Rev. Elias Bond and his wife, Ellen, who arrived in 1841. Determined to build a church that would stand the test of time, parishioners carried stones by hand from the surrounding areas for the walls, and constructed the roof from hand-hewn ohia wood held together with mortise and tenon joints. The church was dedicated in
October 1855, and today has been placed on both the national and state historic registers.

What threatens it?
Until October of last year, the thick, stone walls of the church looked plenty sturdy, but over the years, the coral mortar used by the original builders had dried and crumbled back into sand. When the 6.7 magnitude earthquake rocked the Big Island, large sections of the walls crumbled into piles of rubble on the lawn, turning the church into a media poster child of the earthquake’s devastation. Miraculously, the structure didn’t collapse entirely, and the congregation was able to temporarily shore up the walls, keeping the church upright until permanent repairs can be made.

What can be done?
Glenn Mason, the architect hired to rebuild the church, says that at least 90 percent of the walls need to be replaced. “The challenge is going to be saving the rest of the building—the floors, the roof—and we’re still figuring out how to do that,” he says. The Kalahikiola congregation is committed to restoring the church, but it’s going to take a lot of money. Boyd Bond, parishioner and descendent of the original Rev. Bond, estimates the church’s earthquake insurance will cover as much as $1 million, but says the cost of restoration could be $3 million or more, depending on the solution at which Mason Architects arrives.

 

The Bond Homestead (Kohala, Big Island)

Bond Homestead

Photo by Macario

What is it?
Although no one has lived in the homestead for 60 years, this house was once the home of Father Bond, a missionary who devoted his life to the Hawaiian community in Kohala. Built in 1840, it is the oldest wooden structure in Kohala, and, along with the former Kohala Girls School and various expansions to the main house, is part of the 54-acre Bond Historic District. In 1999, the Bond family sold the estate to the New Moon Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by billionaire Bennett Dorrance.

What threatens it?
In the ’06 earthquake, many of the stone buildings on the estate, including Bond’s office, suffered the same type of damage that the Kalahikiola Church did, with walls collapsing outward from the shaking. New Moon has temporarily shored up the structures, and retained Mason Architects to evaluate the damage, but New Moon director of operations Robin Mullin says restoring the buildings is not a high priority. “We’re not going to demolish the buildings,” she says. “But it’s going to take at least $2 million—that’s a lot of money for something we make no income on. We do have private funding at our disposal, but not necessarily enough to do it in the short term. We might not be able to do this project for years.”

What can be done?
Although the buildings lie within the Bond Historic District, the designation does not legally compel the private landowners to rebuild them. Ultimately, it’s up to New Moon to decide what it wants to do with the homestead, and when.

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