Hawai‘i’s Most Endangered Historic Sites

The Historic Hawaii Foundation, the State Historic Preservation Division and Honolulu Magazine compile an annual list of some of our state's most endangered places.


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The past year has been a time of belt-tightening for the state of Hawaii and many of its families, private companies and charitable organizations. The lack of funds has also had an impact on the preservation of historic places throughout the state. But when the going gets tough, the tough would be wise to find creative ways to preserve our history. In an effort to do that, the Historic Hawaii Foundation (HHF), the State Historic Preservation Division and HONOLULU Magazine have assembled this annual list of some of Hawaii’s most endangered places. This year’s nominations include an ancient fishpond, a historic district in a heavily touristed Maui town, a crumbling theater on the Big Island and a few highly visible downtown Honolulu buildings. All these sites are endangered due to financial fallout, whether through foreclosure, company merger or budget cuts. That reality should not overshadow that they represent important chapters in Hawaii’s rich past, and contribute to our sense of place and who we are as a community. 


It’s important to note that making this list does not guarantee protection or preservation. Our goal is to raise awareness of the sites’ vulnerability and inspire community support. In the following pages, you’ll find this year’s most endangered historic sites, the stories behind what’s threatening them and what can be done to protect them. You’ll also discover updates on last year’s endangered sites, including Alekoko Pond, the Luahiwa petroglyphs and Lapakahi.


Photo: Rae Huo


Waikalua Loko Fishpond (Kaneohe, Oahu)

What is it?

Waikalua Loko is one of the few remaining intact ancient Hawaiian fishponds in the state. Located in Kaneohe Bay, the approximately 400-year-old fishpond exemplifies the ancient Hawaiians’ skillful management of natural resources.  The Waikalua Loko Fishpond Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization, has managed the pond since 1995, working to eradicate invasive mangrove and maintain the pond’s kuapa (wall) and makaha (gates), work done strictly by volunteers. “Since we began,” says Herb Lee, executive director of the Pacific American Foundation (PAF) and one of the founders of the preservation society, “we’ve had tens of thousands of people come down to help.”


What threatens it?

The fishpond is located on property that is part of the Bay View Golf Course, which recently went into foreclosure. “The cultural, educational and restoration activities are threatened by the uncertain priorities of new landowners who may prefer to develop the property rather than restore a fishpond,” says Hal Hammatt, the president and principal investigator for Cultural Surveys Hawaii. Then there’s the small matter of the proposed Kaneohe sewer upgrades project. “The fishpond itself will not be impacted by this project,” says Department of Environmental Services director Tim Steinberger. “Parking associated with the fishpond, however, will be impacted during construction. The city will be working with various community organizations during preparation of the draft EIS to address the parking issue, and is already working with stakeholder agencies and representatives from the Kaneohe and Kailua areas, including the Pacific American Foundation, which oversees the fishpond.”  Losing the parking area for an undetermined amount of time will impact the “momentum of volunteers,” says Lee, hindering the society’s ability to perform much-needed regular maintenance on the pond.


What can be done?

One option is to seek subdivision of the property. According to Lee, the Pacific American Foundation, along with Windward Community College and the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, have applied for, and received, a HUD grant that’s reserved for higher-education institutions serving Native Hawaiians and their communities. The grant identified approximately 19-plus acres, including 12 acres of water and 7 acres of surrounding land, giving the Pacific American Foundation the necessary monies to purchase the plot on which the pond resides. Unfortunately, the property is not subdivided, and the group cannot afford to purchase the golf course in its entirety. When we contacted Central Pacific Bank, the golf course’s current owner, chief marketing officer Wayne Kirihara informed us that the bank had just received the title to the property and that they would “need to get their arms around all of the moving parts before a sales strategy could be developed.”


Photo: Ryan Siphers

Lahaina Historic District (Lahaina, Maui)

What is it?

The first capital of the kingdom of Hawaii, Lahaina was also once a bustling whaling town and plantation settlement. To recognize and preserve its rich history, two sets of historic districts have been created in Lahaina: The Lahaina Historic District, which encompasses about 1,665 acres, was added to the National Park Service’s (NPS) National Historic Landmarks Program in December 1962. Maui County Historic District Boundaries 1 and 2 cover about 65 acres in Lahaina. “Historic District 1 was designated more for traditional historic sites such as the prison, the Masters’ Reading Room, some of the older churches, the Seaman’s Hospital,” says Ann Cua, the deputy director of the Maui County Planning Department. “Historic District 2 is where you have the commercial buildings on Front Street.”


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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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