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Hawaii's Most Endangered Historic Places 2012


(page 4 of 5)

The original Opaekaa Bridge.

photo: hawaii state archives

What Threatens them?

Though safe, the bridges are largely constructed of steel and have experienced heavy corrosion, section loss and vehicular-impact damage over the years, says Larry Dill, engineer for the County of Kauai Department of Public Works. Griffin counters that the county has been gunning to replace the Puuopae Bridge. “For 20 years, the lack of maintenance and attention to these bridges has been shameful,” says Griffin. “That’s the main reason these bridges are in danger. There doesn’t seem to be the will or the understanding to preserve the structures in ways that can honor the history while utilizing contemporary efficiencies. The county is approaching the bridges as if safety and efficiency for the bridges is an either/or situation, instead of using contemporary techniques for preservation to save them.”


What Can Be Done?

Any changes to the bridges would be funded by the Federal Highways Administration. Dill says, “We are currently soliciting community input via the Section 106 process regarding the historic nature of the bridges to help us reach a proposal for the scope of the projects.” He cites the lack of accommodation for cyclists or pedestrians, as well as concerns about capacity and safety. “Advances in construction materials and design have rendered many of the aspects of these bridges obsolete from an engineering perspective.”  Still, he adds, “The historic characteristics of these bridges will be considered and included in our proposals for these bridges.”

There are four buildings that make up the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station, including a powerhouse/operating building, hotel, administration building and a manager’s cottage.

photos: rae huo, hawaiian collection, hamilton library, uh manoa

The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station (Kahuku, Oahu)

What Is It?

On an oceanfront parcel of land in Kahuku, tucked between Turtle Bay’s golf course and shrimp farms, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station gives us a rare glimpse into telecommunications history. The station’s name refers to Guglielmo Marconi, who invented and commercialized a way to transmit Morse signals wirelessly across great distances. Hawaii was at the forefront in the use of this technology, and when the Kahuku station was built in 1914, it was the largest wireless telegraph station in the world in terms of capacity and power. By 1916, there was regular telegraphic communication between Hawaii and Japan, a distance of 4,200 miles.

The property was purchased by Marconi Point LLC in 2005, says owner Jeremy Henderson. It’s one of only two remaining telegraph stations in Hawaii (the Koko Head station’s hotel building became Lunalilo’s Home in 1928), and one of only a handful in the country: Receiving stations in Marshall, Calif., and Belmar, N.J., also remain standing.

What Threatens it?

Telegraph declined after Hawaii was linked to the Mainland by undersea telephone cable in 1957 and, today, the buildings at Marconi station sit vacant and in disrepair. Until Henderson can come up with the right use for the property, the buildings will continue to deteriorate.

What Can Be Done?

“I’d love for the Marconi buildings to be restored, preserved and approved for adaptive reuses, which would share the history while generating income from the property,” says Henderson. “I’d rather not demolish the buildings. I’ve spent a lot of time and money to try to save them.” Preservation architect Tonia Moy, of Fung Associates, says, “The large powerhouse building has an amazing industrial quality that would make great artist lofts or low-impact manufacturing, like handcrafted surfboards or furniture. The site is amazing as well, with a fantastic beachfront that would make a great place for the retreat. But anything that would keep the buildings intact and allow for the interpretation of the incredible history of the site would be wonderful.”

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