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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.


(page 3 of 4)

Koloa Jodo Mission (Koloa, Kauai)

Koloa Jodo Mission

Photo by Sue Boynton

What is it?
Built in 1909 by Rev. Jissei Muroyama, the Koloa Jodo Mission was one of Kauai’s first Japanese temples, erected by immigrants who settled in the area. The mission built a larger temple to replace the aging structure in the 1980s, and it has since been used as a columbarium (a place for urns). Lorraine Minatoishi-Palumbo, an architect with expertise in Hawaii’s traditional Japanese architecture, calls the temple a fine example of early period Japanese temples built in the Islands, and says it’s one of only a handful still standing.

What threatens it?
The temple is beginning to feel its age, particularly in the past two years. The mission’s minister, Rev. Ishikawa, says, “We still use the building as a columbarium, but the ceiling is falling down and there’s also termite damage. I feel it’s become dangerous to use.”

According to Minatoishi-Palumbo, the situation is a result of changing times. “What has been traditional in the upkeep of these temples is that the congregations would maintain them,” she says. “A lot of the Japanese men were carpenters, but everyone has gotten older.”

At this point, many in the congregation are pushing to simply demolish the temple. Ishikawa says he’d like to save it, although he’s not sure what repairs would cost.

What can be done?
Minatoishi-Palumbo plans to submit the Koloa Jodo Mission to the state and national historic registers, which, if approved, will make it easier to apply for bricks and mortar grants. Another interesting prospect: A former minister of the temple, Rev. Kodo Tanaka, visited the mission in June, and after seeing the condition of the structure, raised the possibility of bringing in skilled carpenters from Japan to repair the temple.


The Wainiha Stream Bridges (Hanalei, Kauai)

Wainiha Bridge

Photo by Sue Boynton

What is it?
A group of single-lane wooden timber bridges crossing the Wainiha Stream near Hanalei on Route 560. Since their construction in 1957, the low-profile, white-painted bridges have become an integral element of the rural character of the district, which is listed on both the Hawai‘i and National Register of Historic Places.

What threatens it?
The bridges are indisputably in terrible shape. State Department of Transportation inspectors have found heavy corrosion on the steel girders as well as rotting of some of the timbers. In fact, one of the bridges has already been replaced with a utilitarian-looking prefabricated modular steel bridge. DOT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa says the remaining two bridges are slated for demolition in mid-2009. “Temporary single-lane Acrow bridges will be installed, which will provide us some time to come up with a permanent bridge design that is safe and something the community is happy with,” he says.

What can be done?
The problem is that the community is happy with the existing bridges. Susan Tasaki from the State Historic Preservation Division, as well as local community groups such as the Hanalei Road Committee, are pushing to repair and reinforce the structures instead of tearing them down. “These bridges should be repaired, replacing the existing materials in kind,” says Tasaki. “They’re not supposed to replace it with concrete. Nothing in the guidelines allows that.”

Tasaki says the situation in Hanalei is indicative of a larger problem throughout Hawaii. Over the next six years, the DOT plans to spend $250 million replacing 40 bridges across the state, many of them in Windward Oahu. It will be up to local communities to make sure that the unique qualities of their area bridges aren’t lost in the process.


The Austin and Pantheon Buildings (Honolulu, Oahu)

The Austin and Pantheon Buildings

Photo by Rae Huo

What is it?
The Austin and Pantheon buildings sit on Nuuanu Avenue, directly behind the Hawaii Theatre. The Austin is home to Restaurant Epic, while the now-boarded-up Pantheon, built in 1911, once housed Honolulu’s oldest bar: the Pantheon, founded in 1883.

What threatens it?
Hawaii Theatre is planning a $21 million expansion that will add a deeper main stage, a separate black-box theater and a restaurant, as well as storage space, changing rooms and offices. Sarah Richards, president of Hawaii Theatre Center, says “We’ll be able to host a much wider range of performances, both larger and smaller. It will be a real benefit to the neighborhood.” To make room for the upgrades, however, Richards says the Austin and the Pantheon will need to be demolished.

What can be done?
Architect Glenn Mason describes the Pantheon as, “a wreck, structurally,” but says that he’d like to see at least the façades of the two buildings preserved. “They’re contributing to the historic district, although they aren’t wildly significant by themselves,” he says. “If Hawaii Theatre is planning on tearing the buildings down and replacing them with fake façades, that’s a concern.”

Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of the Historic Hawaii Foundation, agrees. “The success of the theater is good for the community, but so is having an intact and complete Chinatown. Replicated buildings weaken the context and undermine the overall district. Historic preservation is not only about monumental and iconic buildings; it’s also about the everyday experience of vibrant streets and active neighborhoods.”

Hawaii Theatre is early in the planning stages—the current timeline calls for a 2012 construction start date—and it’s Faulkner’s hope that there’s still time to save the façades.


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