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The 5 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 sites.


Published:

Loko Ea

Loko Ea Fishpond in Hale‘iwa.
Photo: David Croxford

 

Progress can be complicated.

 

As much as we think of moving forward, we also want to preserve the parts of our past that make us who we are. What would Hawai‘i be without sites tied to mo‘olelo or relics of war? Decidedly different. And maybe not a place to which we’d feel as connected.

 

Each year, we partner with the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Division to share some sites that are on the brink of destruction. Sometimes, we’re just a few weeks too late, as demolition crews move in before the public has a chance to learn the situation.

 

Other times, though, we win. Many of the places we’ve listed in the past 11 years of the list have, in fact, been saved, thanks to the actions of our passionate readers. So, if you see something here that inspires you, or you know a place that needs to be on our list, let’s do something about it, together.

 

Kaniakapūpū Ruins

Nu‘uanu Valley, O‘ahu

Kaniakapupu Ruins

Photo: Aaron Yoshino


What it is 

Kamehameha III’s summer home, Kaniakapūpū, built in the 1840s, is one of the last sites associated with Kauikeaouli and may be where part of the Great Māhele was written. That’s according to Baron Ching, vice chair for ‘Ahahui Mālama o Kaniakapūpū. It also served as a chiefs’ children’s school. “Every single high-ruling king or queen was within the walls of Kaniakapūpū,” Ching says. A plaque at the site declares there was once a lū‘au held there in honor of Hawaiian Restoration Day, with 10,000 people in attendance, but not much is known about its use after 1847.

 

Though many people hike to the ruins, the area is part of a restricted watershed and is off-limits to the public.

 

Kaniakapupu crosses

Photo: Courtesy of DLNR

What threatens it  

Erosion remains a constant threat. In June, someone etched crosses into three of the walls, damaging the stone blocks and the integrity of the structure, as well as desecrating this important cultural site. (This is not the first time it’s been vandalized, either.) Since then, others have attempted to scratch the crosses off, further degrading the 180-year-old palace. Google and Instagram searches reveal photos of people doing photo shoots, leaning on the walls, and even climbing and sitting above the doorway.

 

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has asked more than a dozen blogs to remove information and directions leading people to this restricted area, but social media make it accessible despite DLNR efforts.

 

What can be done  

“Over the years, we’ve discussed a lot of things,” Ching says, including putting up a fence encircling the ruins, putting up more signs explaining their cultural significance and installing video cameras in the parking area. “Ultimately what needs to happen is we need the state to send somebody up there, like a ranger or somebody, to actually watch the place during daytime hours … something that DLNR doesn’t have money for.” The ‘Ahahui comprises about half a dozen regular volunteers, but “we all gotta pay our rent,” Ching says; they can’t afford to be up there 24/7. They’re hopeful that more education about why the place is significant and possibly interns from other organizations can help protect it since, once it’s damaged, it cannot be repaired.

 

DLNR’s senior communications manager, Dan Dennison, says, “Certainly fencing and signage are two of the options under consideration.”

 

Nīnole Stream Bridge

Ka‘ū, Big Island

Ninole stream bridge

Nīnole Stream Bridge on the Big Island is one of the last remaining timber bridges in the Hawai‘i state highway system. 
Photo: Megan Spelman


What it is 

This is one of the last remaining timber bridges in the Hawai‘i state highway system, according to the State Historic Preservation Division’s files. Built in 1940 by engineer William R. Bartels, the 60-foot historic bridge carries Māmalahoa Highway over Nīnole Stream. Though 76 years old, its wooden columns and railings remain structurally sound, but it’s not wide enough for modern transportation needs and does not match other bridges in the system.

 

What threatens it 

The Federal Highway Administration’s Central Federal Lands Highway Division and the state Department of Transportation have proposed a replacement bridge that would be able to accommodate larger vehicles and be safer. The project overview states that, as of Sept. 1, the final Environmental Assessment is being prepared, maps are being reviewed and the project is almost 100-percent designed. Funding, however, hasn’t been acquired yet.

 

What can be done 

Because the bridge is eligible for the Hawai‘i Register of Historic Places, someone can nominate it to the state register without having to get the Department of Transportation’s permission (this is not the case for sites nominated to the national register). Being listed on the register wouldn’t guarantee its protection, but the State Historic Preservation Division would have to review the demolition first and could ask for other proposals to be considered.

 

The current proposal calls for a temporary bridge to be constructed next to the current one while the new bridge is being built. If the temporary bridge were built as the permanent replacement, the original bridge could remain for pedestrians and bicyclists.

 

Pilia‘ama Stone

Pūpūkea, O‘ahu

Piliaama Stone

Photo: David Croxford


What it is  

In Hawaiian lore, Pilia‘ama was a konohiki, surfer and fisherman on the North Shore, until one day, when he was running away from an ali‘i woman who was in love with him, he vanished, leaving nothing but his footprint in a large rock, about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide, near Waimea Bay. Ian Masterson, noted surfer and WCC professor, says he discovered the stone after delving into Waimea’s surfing history and reading Gilbert McAllister’s description of it in Archaeology of O‘ahu (1933). He believes the stone should be honored as a sacred site, perhaps as a place for offerings to the patron surfer of the bay.

 

What threatens it  

The Pilia‘ama Stone sits very close to the road, only a few feet back from the asphalt. It is in danger of being hit by cars or nicked by tree-trimming equipment, which has already left marks on the front of it. If nobody knows it’s there, Pilia‘ama’s story may be lost.

 

What can be done  

“How do we deal with sacred sites, do we leave them hidden or do we honor them? It feels like Pilia‘ama should be honored,” Masterson says. He suggests putting a sign and a short wrought-iron fence around it, like the Kahuna Stones in Waikīkī, or even a small chain encircling the stone. But building a protective barrier may be a safety issue so close to Kamehameha Highway. Anyone who wants to take on this project would need to discuss it with the State Historic Preservation Division first. “For me, it would be great to be able to be a caretaker, remove bushes away from that area and clean the area up above it,” Masterson says. He’s had “the greatest relationship honoring Pilia‘ama all these years.” 

 

Loko Ea

Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu

Loko Ea

Photo: David Croxford


What it is

“Loko Ea is a 400-year-old fishpond and continues to be a cultural and educational learning center for our keiki and their families,” says Rae DeCoito, executive director of Mālama Loko Ea Foundation, a steward of the pond since 2009. North Shore Outdoor Circle president Kerry Germain says the pond, which is home to many native species, was once the summer retreat of Queen Lili‘uokalani.

 

What threatens it

Next to the pond, in the space formerly occupied by a Chevron station, there are plans to build a retail complex called The Shops at Anahulu. Germain says the organization’s primary concern is that it blocks the view of Loko Ea Pond from Kamehameha Highway (in violation of the Hale‘iwa Special District Land Use Ordinance) and eliminates the open space on the banks of the pond.  “Mālama Loko Ea Foundation and [landowner] Kamehameha Schools are working to restore the fishpond to be a working aquaculture resource providing edible food, so the concerns for protecting water quality are obvious,” she says. It’s not clear how the developers, Lokea Kai Partners LLC, will deal with possible runoff and their as-yet-unapproved septic system, though they have said it goes beyond the minimum safety requirements. In addition, Germain says Chevron was required to clean up the contaminated soil but submitted a report to the health department in July stating some of the contamination still remains.

 

“We do not feel that this development is in the best alignment with our mission and goal to restore the fishpond.”—Rae Decoito

 

What can be done

As of September, Germain said a number of permits were still needed before the project could be undertaken, including: a construction plan approval, a building permit, a sewer connection permit and a street-usage permit. The organization is advocating for a conservation easement that would still provide revenue to landowner Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, but also preserve and protect the area, rather than add more retail stores. The North Shore Outdoor Circle also supports Kamehameha Schools’ proposal to incorporate the parcel into a multiuse path that runs from Hale‘iwa Beach Park through Pua‘ena Point. The trust, Lokea Kai and Kamehameha Schools would all have to agree on an alternative; the trust has shown no interest in changing its plans. While the Outdoor Circle respects the trustees’ “kuleana to oversee their lands as they deem appropriate,” DeCoito says, “we do not feel that this development is in the best alignment with our mission and goal to restore the fishpond as a food source for the community.”

 

Ancient Trail System

Hawai‘i Island

Ancient Trail System

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service


What it is

Ancient Hawaiians used a system of trails called ala loa to travel between ahupua‘a in precontact Hawai‘i. Over time, many evolved from footpaths to our modern highways, but the routes remain. One of the best-preserved examples is a 175-mile trail on the Big Island called the Ala Kahakai. Portions of it are on the National Register of Historic Places; however, there are many other “in-between” trails that are not, especially connecting trails running mauka to makai.

 

What threatens it

All ancient trails are threatened by forces of nature (such as lava flows or landslides), neglect or development. It’s especially hard to preserve the trails that have not been identified as part of the ancient system; however, when they are identified, the State Historic Preservation Division takes measures to protect and preserve them, according to administrator Alan Dower. “The difficulty is that we are often working with fragmentary information. So we may have bits of trail segments identified in a report but nothing to put them in context of a system of trails,” he says. “In such instances, it is difficult to make really effective management decisions because we don’t have the information we need to make better ones.”

 

“Any place that you see development coming up, we’re kind of worried.”—Aric Arakaki

 

According to Aric Arakaki, superintendent of the Ala Kahakai with the National Park Service, “Everything is voluntary on the part of the landowners and the public to preserve it.” He says that about 50 percent of the trail runs through private property. “Any place that you see development coming up, we’re kind of worried.”

 

What can be done

Arakaki says, “Trails that fall outside of our corridor, if they retain the same values and characteristics [of the Ala Kahakai], we could incorporate them as connector trails.” But a management plan is a work in progress, and the communities surrounding these trails need to take charge. Arakaki says the public can work with local community development organizations and volunteers. The Park Service makes a point to comment on development proposals and recommend the county keep these trails for public access. He says he’s been lucky, with most landowners agreeing to preserve trails on their property. If the trail is on private land, the Park Service or the state can try to prove it is part of the ancient system and should therefore become public, according to the Highways Act of 1892.

 


 

Making a Difference: 

Updates from Previous Years 

We’ve been publishing the Most Endangered Places list for 12 years now. Some of those earlier sites are now gone, but in other cases, the attention of being nominated and published has helped save places teetering on the brink! Here are a few updates, both happy and sad.

 

SAVED!

Laulima House (2014)

Honolulu, O‘ahu

Laulima House

Photo: David Croxford


Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, which is located next to Laulima House on Ke‘eaumoku Street, purchased the property for $3.1 million in 2014 and has completed various renovations. “We saw the house itself as having great potential for the organization,” says Jerry Rauckhorst, outgoing president and CEO of CCH, especially because it lends itself to a homelike setting, rather than an institutional setting, like CCH’s Clarence T.C. Ching campus. It’s a more appropriate place for kids in foster care to schedule visits, to train volunteers or to have events, for instance. “This was something we couldn’t afford not to do.”

 

“We respect the historic nature of the facility, so when we did various renovations, obviously we wanted to make sure we were very respectful of the historical significance,” Rauckhorst says. “We went to some lengths to ensure we were doing that in a very respectful mode.”

 

RENOVATED!

Coco Palms Resort (2008)

Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i

Coco Palms

Photo: Courtesy of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation


Developers Chad Waters and Tyler Greene began knocking down portions of the property in June, with plans to complete the demolition phase by the end of the year. The resort earned pop culture fame when Elvis Presley got married there in Blue Hawai‘i (1961). Though they will be expanding the size of some suites, the overall footprint of the hotel won’t change—the cabanas will still be there (but raised because of the proximity to the lagoon), and the coconut grove will be cleaned up and feature a cultural center. Though almost everything is getting stripped out to be renovated, some important relics will be preserved, such as tile mosaics from the main bar and restaurant.

 

To raise money for this effort, the developers are launching a fundraising campaign “to give locals and people emotionally invested in the hotel an opportunity to get back involved,” Greene said in a statement. “We would prefer to keep the hotel in the hands of people who love it and have a personal connection with it.” 

 

The hotel should be open by mid- to late 2018.

 

SAVED!

Lihu‘e Shell Station (2015)

Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i

Lihui Shell

Photo: Courtesy of Aloha Petroleum Ltd.


Just after we went to press last year, Aloha Petroleum withdrew its demolition permit for the station. “Aloha is exploring whether we can redevelop the location and include the existing building, but it is very difficult due to the poor condition of the building,” the company said in a statement. “We hope to make a decision before the end of the year.” So, this might just be a reprieve.

 

ENDANGERED!

Falls of Clyde (2005)

Pier 7, O‘ahu

Falls of Clyde

Photo: David Croxford


In June, the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation Harbors Division revoked the Falls of Clyde’s permit to moor in Pier 7, where it has sat free of charge for seven years, citing safety and security concerns. (The DOT planned to revoke the permit in 2015, but granted owners The Friends of Falls of Clyde more time to raise funds for dry docking and restoration. DOT says, in the past year, the Friends raised less than $3,000 and did not receive any of the grants for which they applied.) The Friends were given 30 days to move the ship and, when that was not possible, the DOT impounded it. The Friends say the ship is safe and shouldn’t have to move, nor do they have the funds to relocate it. “We as a board have made it really clear: Our mission has been, from the get-go, to save the ship,” says Chris Woolaway, vice president of the Friends. She says the group is currently talking with attorneys, historic preservation experts and others interested in preserving the national landmark to see what can be done. An administrative hearing in August determined that the impoundment was justified, so the Friends are now considering further legal action.

 

DEMOLISHED!

Ford Island Cottages at Battleship Row (2005)

Ford Island, O‘ahu

Ford Island cottages

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service


In 2008, the six Chief Petty Officer bungalows previously deemed endangered were included in the newly established World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. All six were meant to be restored after an environmental assessment in 2012 called them “unique examples of historic Navy housing in Hawai‘i” and laid out plans for rehabilitating them into visitor areas and office space. However, earlier this year, it was discovered that a contractor hired by the National Park Service demolished one of the homes. “We deeply regret the damage done to the bungalow and have already begun working on implementing report recommendations, including scheduling cultural resource compliance training for staff,” said the monument’s superintendent, Jacqueline Ashwell, in an email. The cottage has since been replaced with a similar building.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY KATRINA VALCOURT

 

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Honolulu Magazine January 2017
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