The 7 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i

The Historic Hawai‘i 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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Līhu‘e Shell Station

Location: Līhue, Kaua‘i

the garden island says the station is the first in the islands to have a “typical hawaiian roof design.”
Photo: Courtesy of Aloha Petroleum LTD. 


This gas station along Kūhiō Highway was built in 1930 by Guy Nelson Rothwell, a Honolulu architect known for his work on more than 1,000 structures on O‘ahu, including Honolulu Hale, Roosevelt High School, the Atherton House at UH and many buildings on the Punahou campus. With a lava-rock base and pillars and a cement roof designed to emulate a grass shack, the Shell station was praised as “without doubt the finest and most attractive service station in Hawai‘i,” in a June 10, 1930, cover story of The Garden Island.


What threatens it? 

Aloha Petroleum, the distributor and retailer of Shell gasoline in Hawai‘i, has filed for demolition permits with the Kaua‘i Planning Department and plans to knock it down in 2016. “The problem with this place is it’s very old and it’s very rundown and, frankly, it’s reached the end of its useful life,” says Richard Parry, CEO of Aloha Petroleum. “We’ve spent a lot of money trying to fix it,” he says, including attempting to waterproof the roof, but it still leaks and has even collapsed inside; the fuel islands aren’t under the canopy so they get wet in the rain; it’s dangerously close to the road; and the canopy is so low that tall vehicles keep hitting it. “It’s falling down, it’s a safety hazard, it’s not functional.”


What Can be Done?

“We’re always open to options, but we’ve been wondering about how to fix this thing up for five years,” Parry says. If possible, Aloha Petroleum may reuse some of the building materials or commemorate the original station with a plaque or photos.


Ka‘aina Hull, deputy planning director with the County, says the department will look into if it can be rebuilt or possibly condemned. “We’re actively reaching out to the landowners to see if there’s potential for preservation,” he says. Though he understands Aloha Petroleum’s financial concerns, he wants to educate them and the owner, the Weinberg Foundation, about its architectural history and see the building returned to its original glory. “It’s a beautiful gem in the rough.”


Update: A few days after we went to press, Aloha Petroleum Ltd. decided to put its demolition plans for the Līhuʻe Shell station on hold while it explores other options for preserving the historic structure. Hooray!


Kapuāiwa Coconut Grove

Location: Kaunakakai, Moloka‘i

Named for King Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa), this nearly 10-acre beachfront grove was first planted in the 1860s with 1,000 coconut trees, one for each warrior in his army. It’s one of the last royal coconut groves and considered by many to be sacred, filled with hundreds of trees and some freshwater springs. Coconut palms usually live for 60 to 80 years, and more than half of the grove has been replanted at least three times, but some of the original trees are still standing. 


What threatens it? 

The grove is not tended to on a regular basis, which leads to haphazardly strewn fronds and fallen trees, plus a buildup of litter. On top of general disrepair, many of the trees have become infected with coconut mites and other pests and diseases, according to the Moloka‘i branch of the Maui Invasive Species Committee. 


What can be done? 

Some trees have been removed, but “Specific expertise on palms needs to be brought to bear,” says Darcy Oishi, an entomologist with the state Department of Agriculture, including assessments of soil quality and pests. 


The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which owns the area, is currently installing a fence around the grove, mainly to keep out vehicles. “We have to be vigilant in trying to keep the public safe,” says Halealoha Ayau, DHHL Moloka‘i acting district supervisor. “We’re not saying you can’t go in at all, but reasons should be limited to cultural and educational.” As of this writing, people were still entering the grove without permits and safety gear.


The DHHL is also considering hiring a company to do quarterly maintenance. The Kalama‘ula Homesteaders’ Association, which has been advocating for the grove’s cleanup for years, wants to help, but president Gayla Haliniak-Lloyd says they need support from DHHL and other state officials to move forward with restoration and preservation.


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Honolulu Magazine November 2019