What is it like to live in a historic Hawaii home?

Homes on the Historic Register are beautiful relics of an older Hawaii, but what are they like to actually live in?


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Beadie Kanahele Dawson’s Nuuanu home is definitely significant, but she’s still on the fence about formally submitting it to the Hawaii Register of Historic Places.

Photos: Olivier Koning


Lives in: Polihiwahiwa
Address: 3966 Nuuanu Pali Drive
Architect: Hart Wood
Style: Mediterranean
Built: 1927

Beadie Kanahele Dawson bought her Nuuanu home almost 50 years ago and raised all her children there. “It truly is a family home,” she says.

Polihiwahiwa (nestling in the bosom of the hills) is a fun, five-bedroom Mediterranean-style home designed by architect Hart Wood, with help on some of the interior design from Vladimir Ossipoff. One of Dawson’s favorite features is a private chapel—the only one on Oahu to have been blessed by the Episcopal Church—but she also loves the portals and vistas that stretch mauka to makai.

Although she frequently lends out her home for charity events, Dawson has yet to begin the process of getting her home listed on the state’s historic register. “Clearly it qualifies,” she says. “It’s designed by a very well-known architect and it’s built for this valley.”

Her reluctance is due to the extra permitting that would be required when she wanted to make changes—she’s redone the kitchen three or four times—but she’s beginning to reconsider because the tax credits could help her with the cost of upkeep. “I probably will put it on the register. The taxes are brutal,” she says. So are improvements. “Everything has to be custom made to fit,” she says.

Regardless of its official status on the register, Dawson believes in preserving the original elements for the next generation, as much as possible. “I look at myself as the steward of this home, not the owner,” she says. “It would be a travesty to lose it.”



Got a home that you think might qualify for historic status? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Q. How can a residence qualify for the Hawaii Register of Historic Places?
A. Homes must be at least 50 years old and need to possess historic significance and integrity, such as being associated with an important event or people who were significant in the past. The homes might also represent a specific period, method of construction or work of a master.

Q. What are the financial incentives for listing a home on the register?
A. Each of Hawaii’s four county governments offer some tax relief to help historic home owners preserve their properties, generally in the form of a real property tax exemption for certain portions of the residence. A typical homeowner could save around $3,600.

Q. Are there requirements for remaining on the register?
A. Homes should be maintained in a way that requires little change to the defining characteristics of the building, its site and environment. Any improvements or alterations must be reviewed by the state Historic Preservation Department before construction begins. If a homeowner takes a property tax exemption, they must also make sure the public is able to view the home from the street.

Q. How can you apply?
A. You can nominate homes for the register through the State Historic Preservation Division. Find out more on the website, historichawaii.org, or by calling 523-2900.

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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