From the Hawaiian monarchy and ancient Hawaiian practices to Christian missionaries and involvement in World War II, Hawaii is full of amazing history – much of which occurred long before we officially became a state. And with this amazing history comes a plethora of historic buildings and places that are unfortunately often in danger of being demolished.
Luckily, every year, the Historic Hawai’i Foundation, the state Historic Preservation Division, and Honolulu Magazine team up to create a list of the most endangered places throughout the islands. The following nine places were on the list in 2014 and 2015.
1) Moku’aikaua Church
A landmark in Kailua Village, Moku’aikaua was Hawaii’s first church. With more than 195 years of history, the church was named one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2014, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The church was built after the arrival of missionaries on the Big Island after King Kamehameha I’s death, and now is in need of major repairs and restoration. Earthquake damage in 2006 includes cracks in the walls that threaten the historic church’s structural integrity. The steeple also suffers from termite damage and pretty severe rotting.
2) Haiku Stairs
Consisting of approximately 3,922 steps, the Haiku Stairs, commonly referred to as the Stairway to Heaven have been a hotly-debated controversy for years. Using the stairs has been illegal for decades, though wear and tear from trespassing hikers as well as damage from a February storm have made the stairs extremely dangerous. The Board of Water Supply owns the stairs and wants to tear them down, though the Friends of the Haiku Stairs are actively trying to come up with another option – perhaps a system where hikers could pay a certain amount for a permit to hike the stairs?
3) Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove
Planted in the 1860’s, the Kauaiwa Coconut Grove, named after King Kamehameha V, consists of more than 1,000 trees on nearly 10 acres. It is one of the last royal coconut groves, but because it is not tended to on a regular basis, there are a variety of fallen trees, and a buildup of litter. Many of the trees have also become infected with coconut mites, as well as other diseases and pests.
4) Shell Station on Kuhio Highway
Designed by Guy Nelson Rothwell, a Honolulu architect known for his work on Honolulu Hale, as well as 1,000 other Oahu structures, this gas station in Lihue was built in 1930, and has reached the end of its useful life, according to Aloha Petroleum. The company is currently exploring options to preserve the structure, but we aren’t holding our breath.
5) Ierusalema Hou Church
Located in Molokai’s remote Halawa Valley, this tiny church was built in 1948 but no longer holds services due to safety concerns. There are major issues with dry rot and termites, though repairs cannot be made until issues of land ownership are resolved.
6) Kanewai Spring Complex
Fed by a freshwater spring, this east Oahu fishpond is connected to a wildlife sanctuary – Paiko Lagoon – and features a coconut grove, a fishing shrine, and quarried stone block walls. Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center, a nonprofit, takes care of the area through an agreement with the landowner. They’ve done a great deal to restore the area, but it is now enticing foreign buyers, who could very well demolish the fishpond or convert it into a swimming pool – which could greatly endanger wildlife.
7) Pohakuloa Training Area Quonset Huts
Designed during World War II as temporary buildings that were easy to assemble and tear down, more than 100 Quonset huts sit on the Pohakuloa Training Area. It is one of the last remaining groups of Quonset huts still in use in the United States, though according to the Army, the huts are no longer repairable, and were never meant to be permanent anyway. It is possible that the huts could garner a spot on the National Register of Historic Places due to their connection with WWII, though it would not be necessary to preserve all the huts, but only a few.
8) Star of the Sea Church
When lava threatened Kalapana in 1990, church parishioners moved the building to safety (just hours before lava covered the highway). Originally built in 1930, the church was moved again in 1996, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of only two remaining painted churches by Father Evarist Gielen. Unfortunately, the paintings are peeling and what little money is being donated is going to overhead costs, rather than repairs.
9) Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station
Located on Oahu, the abandoned wireless station was one critical in the development of wireless communications throughout Hawaii, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Some minor cleanup has been done, but there are still questions of how best to preserve the historic buildings. Owner Jeremy Henderson plans to conduct a market feasibility study to conclude what options there are for preservation and perhaps reuse.
The hope is that, with education and awareness, our communities can step up in order to protect and preserve these state treasures – either by volunteering with local preservation groups or even by donating money. Do you know of any other historic buildings in Hawaii that are at risk of being destroyed?