Hawaii's Most Endangered Historic Places

Each year, we look for our state’s most endangered historic places through a partnership with the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Division. The list is a call to action, but it’s also a way to appreciate the hidden treasures of our built environment. This year we see Kapahulu Avenue with new eyes, imagine the way plantation workers gathered in the 1900s and consider—if only for a moment—if an ugly building is worth saving.


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(page 2 of 8)


photos: rae huo

What can be done?

Federal and state tax programs provide important tools that neighborhood groups can use to encourage homeowners to put down the wrecking ball, so educating homeowners is an important first step.

But in the long-term, preservation has to be made a priority by local government through the creation of special districts and regulations that address our cultural heritage.

“The incentives are a wonderful thing,” says Faulkner, “but, in other states, designated historic properties and nondesignated properties have some sort of protection through zoning and building permits.”  

Community groups and individuals can push for regulation. There have been efforts since 1995 to create a Manoa Valley Special District by city ordinance, to preserve its unique built environment.

Kapahulu Art Moderne Buildings (Honolulu, Oahu)

What is it?

There’s something urban and cool about Kapahulu Avenue, but you probably can’t put your finger on exactly what it is. Look closely at the building that houses Haili’s Hawaiian Foods on the corner of Kapahulu and Palani Avenues, and you’ll see the art moderne aesthetic that is at Kapahulu Avenue’s core.  A more obscure (and cheaper) cousin of art deco, art moderne stresses curving lines—like the one at Haili’s entrance—awnings anchored with turnbuckles, horizontal lines and construction that starts right at the sidewalk, no setbacks.

Several years ago, Bill Chapman, director of the historic preservation program at the University of Hawaii, took his students to do a field study on Kapahulu. “We found 46 buildings dating before 1950—most dated to the late ’30s and ’40s,” Chapman says, and most with modernist profiles. “It created a pretty consistent pattern up and down the street.”

What threatens it?

About halfway down Kapahulu, Peggy’s Picks in the Chun Kow building has lost its awning and adopted a wild paint job. Other art moderne buildings on the street were covered with stucco, renovated or destroyed when the street was widened. New buildings have cropped up that are set back from the street and don’t mesh with the architectural style. These gradual renovations and demolitions have already done damage to the area’s cohesion.

Related links:
Updates: A Look Back at Past Endangered Places

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