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Hawaii's Most Endangered Historic Sites


(page 5 of 7)

What threatens it?

Following the hospital’s closure, its support buildings, the oldest of which were built in the mid-1930s, and the newest of which, Hale Aloha, was built in 1977, languished into disrepair until the Department of Health decided to transform Waimano Ridge into a modern medical community.

Bringing the site up to code, however, has required significant updating. A survey of Waimano Ridge’s facilities, which were built of wood, concrete or concrete block, showed that roughly half of the buildings were suitable for long-term continued usage, while 12 buildings built between 1936 and 1954 have been earmarked for demolition. “Their time has come,” says Fukino. “A number of the very old buildings, the roofs are caving in, the sides are caving in. Almost all of them are wooden structures or corrugated metal structures that are beyond repair. Those will be demolished.”

What can be done?

At the time this issue was going to press, the Department of Health was sending out RFPs for the demolition of the 12 buildings. The Historic Hawaii Foundation (HHF) is holding out hope that the buildings can be preserved. “Although the plantation vernacular cottages are the victims of deferred maintenance and present significant repair challenges,” says HHF executive director Kiersten Faulkner, “the later concrete buildings are still sound and could be rehabilitated. The history of all of Hawaii’s citizens should have a place in our collective recollections, including the memory of people with developmental disabilities who were housed here.”

Lapakahi (North Kohala, Hawaii)

Photo: Kirk Lee Aeder

What is it?

This privately owned, 17-acre coastal property is situated along the southern point of Lapakahi State Historical Park, which surrounds the estate on three sides. “For some reason,” says Lea Hong, the Hawaiian Islands program director for the Trust for Public Land (TPL), “there was this 17-acre thing that was carved out from the park and passed down through private owners.”

Archaeological research of the property has shown a concentration of prehistoric sites that were likely the remnants of a fishing community that appeared around 1300 A.D. “Lapakahi demonstrates the way of life of the normal, common folk,” says Hong. “It’s an incredible historical park for that reason.” There are approximately two dozen historical sites there, including agricultural features, such as animal pens and water catchments, as well as the remnants of habitation complexes, including residential compounds, burial platforms, fishing shrines, a canoe house and grave sites.

Photo: Kirk Lee Aeder

What threatens it?

Current owner Robert Reish, a retired United States Air Force pilot, purchased the property in 2002 with the intent of building his family residence and several structures that would be available for use for cultural activities by the local community. According to Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) building guidelines for conservation lands, Reish is allowed to build a 5,000-square-foot residence. However, Reish’s plans for additional community centers—a 150-foot canoe house and a training area for the Hawaiian Lua Warriors—were not allowed. “My goal was to build a home and to offer the property to the Hawaiian community to use it for different activities,” says Reish. “Unfortunately … the Department of Land and Natural Resources said we couldn’t conduct Hawaiian cultural activities on land designated as a conservation resource.”


The property, which has been unused for the past seven years, has nearly bankrupted Reish, and he sees no other option than to part ways with it. “It’s been years,” says Reish. “We want to move on and purchase a property where we may invite Hawaiian cultural groups onto our land for their use.” In the meantime, the archaeological sites continue to be exposed to the elements, and are being toppled by kiawe trees. People have also been using the property to dump their trash. “Unless this site can be purchased, added to the Lapakahi State Historical Park and properly managed, these sites may be lost forever,” says Hong.

What can be done?

Reish entered into an agreement two years ago to sell the property to the Trust for Public Land, and recently extended his contract until June 2010. That gives TPL, which has already raised $1.25 million—half of what the property was appraised at—more time to secure additional funding.

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