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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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Kalanianaole Hall (Kalamaula, Molokai)

Kalaniana'ole hall

Photo by Richard A. Cooke III

What is it?
The Kalanianaole Hall stands empty these days, among the coconuts of the Kapuaiwa royal grove in Kalamaula, but it was once one of Moloka‘i’s most important community centers. Built in 1937 on Department of Hawaiian Homelands property, it was primarily a funeral hall, but it also served as a general gathering place, a movie theater and a place of refuge for the Hawaiian community. It was named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who was responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, and the hall remains an important artifact from that era. “It’s probably the best example of the Hawaiian vernacular in plantation architecture of the 1920s and ’30s on Molokai,” says Abbey Mayer, executive director of the Molokai Enterprise Community.

What threatens it?
Today, the hall is in almost total disrepair. The building’s footings are sinking, making it sag unevenly. Holes in the roof let the rain in; pillars have dropped as much as a foot and a half from level. Mayer says termites have done so much damage to the wood that they can’t even tent-fumigate the building, for fear of collapse.

What can be done?
The Molokai Enterprise Community took on the restoration of the hall in 2003, but the project has gone slowly—planning mostly, with no work being done on site. In October, though, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs approved a $500,000 grant for the hall, which Mayer says will jumpstart the restoration process, allowing them to begin on the most critical repairs. It’s encouraging, but more than half of the total $1.1 million estimated cost of renovation remains outstanding.


The Kekaha Sugar Mill (Kekaha, Kauai)

Kekaha Sugar Mill

Photo by Sue Boynton

What is it?
Kekaha Town literally grew up around this mill. From the founding of Kekaha Sugar Co. in 1898 until the end of sugar operations in 2000, the mill provided the area its main economic driver, not to mention one of its most prominent landmarks: the smokestack that still towers above the town. It may not look it today, but the Kekaha Sugar Mill is actually the most modern sugar facility in Hawaii—it was built in 1954 as an upgrade to older, smaller mills before it.

What threatens it?

In a general sense, the wane of the sugar era on Kaua‘i means that plantation towns such as Kekaha and Lihue are faced with reinventing themselves. The mills that defined these towns may fall victim to the search for new commercial activity. Specifically, Pahio Development Inc., the company that bought the Kehaha Mill property earlier this year, and which also owns Lihue Mill, may be looking into replacing the structure with a new development, although president and CEO Lynn McCrory won’t say exactly what kind. “We’re still looking at the options for the site,” she says. “We’d like to take a bit more time looking at those possibilities and moving forward on them.”

What can be done?
Jose Bulatao, vice-chair of the Kauai West Side Watershed Council and a lifelong resident of Kekaha, says he wants Pahio Development to involve the Kekaha community in the discussion over what to do with the mill property. He acknowledges that it may be a costly endeavor to adapt the buildings to a new use. But Bulatao says it would be worth the trouble. “We would like the mill to become the focus and center of something that would bring back economic vitality to our community,” he says.


Grove Farm Manager’s House (Lihue, Kauai)

Grove Farm Manager's House

Photo: (Top) By Sue Boynton (Bottom) Courtesy of the State Historic Preservation Division

What is it?
This two-story, six-bedroom mansion was built in 1913 as a manager’s house for the Grove Farm sugar plantation on Kauai. With a driveway lined by royal palms and a large porte cochere to greet visitors, the home was once an impressive sight. Grove Farm founder George Wilcox’s nephew Charles was its first resident, and it later housed a succession of plantation managers. The plantation ceased sugar operations in 1974, however, and the house has not been occupied for many years.

What threatens it?
Neglect, for the most part. The house sits vacant and cordoned off, and exposure is taking its toll. The roof of the porte cochere, has collapsed, and the house still suffers from the damages it incurred 15 years ago during Hurricane Iniki. Some community members also fear that the manager’s house could be slated for replacement. America Online co-founder Steve Case bought the plantation-turned-land-development-company in 2000, and is planning a subdivision on the land surrounding the house. Robert Schleck, director of the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, says he’d hate to see the manager’s house go. “There are a lot of developments along Nawiliwili Road, and so that property affords a kind of open space, instead of hollow-tile walls and the closed-in feeling you get otherwise,” he says.

What can be done?
Grove Farm’s development plans for the area are still pending approval from various government agencies. In the meantime, it has no definite plans to restore the manager’s house. In an official response, the company states, “While Grove Farm is interested in retaining the original ambience of the manager’s house … given the millions of dollars of costs required for adaptive renovation, there are no current timeframes for such a major undertaking.”


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