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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 1 of 6)

Although the sites vary in historic era, architectural style and original purpose—everything from a statehood-era office building to a centuries-old fishpond—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 Hawaii, the threats to their survival and what can be done to save them. We haven’t forgotten about last year’s list, either; turn to page 142 for updates on the Bond Estate, the Koloa Jodo Mission and other historic places.


Photo: Richard Cooke, III

St. Sophia Church

(Kaunakakai, Molokai)

 What is it?

Pineapple may have disappeared from Molokai as an industry, but the small Catholic church built in 1937 to serve the sakadas (Filipino plantation workers) still stands in Kaunakakai.

Molokai planner Nancy McPherson says the church is an increasingly valuable artifact from Molokai’s plantation era. “A lot of significant buildings have been demolished by neglect,” she says. “St. Sophia is one of the last ones left.” Interestingly, the church is named not after a Catholic saint, but after Sophia Cook, the wife of the Molokai Ranch manager.

• What threatens it?

The congregation wants to replace the aging structure with a new one. Maria Sullivan, who is spearheading the fundraising efforts, says it’s not meeting the needs of the 300 families who attend. “It’s termite-ridden; it’s too small; there are structural problems; people in wheelchairs can’t access the building. It’s a sad situation.”

Even the church’s name will be lost in the replacement; the new church will be called the Blessed Damien Church, in anticipation of the canonization of Damien.

At this point, the church has raised $1.3 million of the $3 million required for the project, and hopes to hold its first service in the new church on Christmas Eve, 2011.

• What can be done?

Historical preservation advocates such as Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of the Historic Hawaii Foundation, hope that there’s still time to find a compromise. “The congregation of immigrants worked and saved to build a fitting sanctuary,” she points out. “A meaningful way to honor their contributions would be to restore the historic church and to build a compatible addition or annex to accommodate the needs of the pilgrims.”


Fort  Kamehameha

(Hickam Air Force Base, Oahu)

Photo: Courtesy of Bond Estate

• What is it?

Built in 1916, Fort Kamehameha was originally an Army Coastal Artillery Post. After World War II, however, coastal artillery became obsolete, and most of the non-residential buildings were demolished. The remaining 33 homes stand as great examples of the Bungalow/Arts and Crafts style of the era, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

• What threatens it?

The Air Force has announced that it intends to dispose of the historic district by the end of 2009. The reason given: Apparently Fort Kamehameha’s location underneath the flight path of runways at Honolulu International Airport puts it in an “accident potential zone.” In a letter to the state Historic Preservation Division explaining the regulation, Air Force environmental flight chief Richard Parkinson wrote, “The risks of aircraft accidents, as well as noise levels, are at an unacceptable level for family housing.”

• What can be done?

“We’re doing an environmental impact statement right now,” says Air Force public information officer Master Sgt. Robert Burgess. “There are five or six [disposal] options on the table, and the decision will be made once we have all the information in.” Those options include demolishing some or all of the homes.
Astrid Liverman, architectural branch chief of the state Historic Preservation Division, says her department has offered to lease Fort Kamehameha from the Air Force for 10 years, which would preserve the historic district without requiring an EIS, but the Air Force has elected to continue with the study. “If the determination of the EIS is that demolition is an acceptable solution, we won’t be able to do anything about it,” she says.


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