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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 4 of 6)

Maui Jinsha Shinto Shrine

(Paukukalo, Maui)

Photo: Matt THayer

• What is it?

The only remaining original Shinto shrine on Maui, out of six which once served the island’s Japanese population, and one of very few left in the entire state.

The shrine was originally constructed in Kahului in 1915, but when new development plans for the area threatened demolition, the congregation moved the entire shrine to its current Paukukalo site over the course of an entire year, finishing in 1954.

The Rev. Masao Arine passed away in 1972; today, his wife, Torako Arine, carries on as priest.

• What threatens it?

Age, both of the structure itself, and the congregation which has traditionally cared for it. “My mother is 94, and many of her congregation have already passed away,” says Wallace Arine. “The old carpenters who used to come help, they no longer can do the job.”

As a result, the years and the ocean spray have taken their toll. When Mason Architects examined the structure in 1999, it found a “significant loss of structural integrity.” Problems include termite damage, rotted beams and extreme weathering. Sections of the exterior ornamentation have even fallen off.

• What can be done?

The shrine is listed on both the state and national registers of Historic Places, but it really needs a champion to step in and take an active role. “There are grants out there for churches and places of worship,” says Maui historian Barbara Long. “The problem is that there’s just no one to lead the charge right now.” She estimates it would take $750,000 to repair the shrine, not including the $80,000 required to restore the large painting above the front door.


Ewa Field

(Ewa, Oahu)

Photo: Rae Huo

• What is it?

Originally established in 1925 as a Navy field for airships—yes, dirigibles—this military site was used only sporadically until early 1941, when the Marine Corps converted it into an active airfield as World War II heated up around the world. When the Japanese fighter pilots buzzed in close on Dec. 7, they were able to destroy or badly damage almost 50 aircraft, and kill four Marines. The field itself was left relatively unscathed, and continued to play an important role in training and deploying Marines during the war.

“There’s a cultural history here that’s hugely important,” says historian John Bond. “Ewa Field is directly tied into the key battles of World War II, from Pearl Harbor to Wake Island to Midway.”

Ewa Field was officially decommissioned in 1952. Today, the airfield sits empty, overgrown with grass and kiawe trees.

• What threatens it?

As we went to press, the Navy, which had owned the property, transferred 499 acres of Kalaeloa land, including parcels containing the former Marine Corps Air Station, to private developer Ford Island Properties, a subsidiary of Texas-based Hunt Companies.

The transfer went through without the historic resource inventory analysis requested by the state Historic Preservation Division, a survey that would have cataloged the historically significant architectural, archaeological and cultural elements of the property.

Ford Island Properties hasn’t made public its intentions for the land, but given its prime location near the Barbers Point Golf Course and the 67-acre shopping center being planned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, it’s safe to say it will make an attractive site for development.

• What can be done?

It’s not too late for an inventory of Ewa Field’s historic elements. Ideally, Ford Island Properties and the HCDA will work together with the community on development plans for the area to include the preservation of Ewa Field. Says Bond, “I’m not against Hunt or anyone developing here, I just want to protect what historically we think is important here.”


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Honolulu Magazine August 2020
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