Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 28, 2017 (Updated July 29, 2017 5:25pm)
By Leila Fukimori
Monk seal pup reunited with mom after getting trapped in the Natatorium
Kaimana, the 4-week-old monk seal pup born at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, wandered away for the first time from her Kauai-born mom, “Rocky,” Friday night.
The two were separated for about 40 to 50 minutes when Kaimana took a dip at the Waikiki Natatorium, while Rocky kept calling out for her baby girl.
All the while, mom had been “pacing up and down and vocalizing,” said David Schofield, Marine Mammal Health and Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.
“Pup is getting stronger and more adventurous and swimming farther away and got herself in a precarious situation,” said Aliza Milette-Winfree, NOAA Oahu Marine Mammal Response coordinator.
Volunteers from the Hawaii Marine Animal Response Team, who have been keeping a watchful eye over mom, designated by NOAA as RH58, and pup, PO3. But they lost sight of Kaimana for about 30 minutes, and immediately called Milette-Winfree and her team. They quickly arrived and gained access to the Natatorium and had to be guided through the dilapidated area.
They discovered the pup swimming in a shallow inner canal at the Natatorium, and not the main pool.
After observing Kaimana and assessing the situation, Milette-Winfree ran out and got a beach blanket from someone on the beach for use as a stretcher.
In minutes, team members, some in the water, rolled her onto the blanket, carried the roughly 100- to 200-pound, 4-foot chubby pup out and got her back to mom on nearby Kaimana Beach.
They were reunited at about 8:40 p.m.
Schofield said they expect mother and daughter to remain at the beach for another two weeks.
After the pup, dubbed “Kaimana” by the community, is weaned, she will be tagged with two official NOAA tags, one on each flipper, and an official designation, but for now is simply PO3.
Milette-Winfree warns the public that the mother seal may get protective and recommends that people swim at another beach.
“Mom is going to be incredibly vigilant and looking out for her wily, little daughter, so she’s going to be incredibly protective right now as the pup gets stronger and stronger and moves farther away from her,” she said.
“Moms can move like a rocket in order to try and protect their pups,” she said.
“It’s been a stressful time for us because of concern about mom’s protective behavior,” while trying to keep the public safe.
Schofield says that after the mom leaves, the danger of aggression will be over, but the next concern will be for the pup’s safety.
The state and NOAA officials continue to urge people to use other beaches.
KITV, June 22, 2016
By Catherine Cruz
City considers new alternatives for crumbling Waikiki Natatorium
HONOLULU – The Waikiki War Memorial was recently designated as a national treasure even though it has been closed for almost 50 years. Its last major face-lift was 16 years ago.
Next week, the natatorium becomes the focus of a week-long series of meetings in an effort to decide what to do with it.
“We have preservation groups and park and beach groups, veteran groups and Native Hawaiian groups that we will be sharing what we have gotten so far on the alternatives,” said Robert Kroning, director of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.
The city has been considering two alternatives: full restoration or demolition, which involves creating a new beach and rebuilding the historic arch inland.
But the city said two other alternatives will be considered next week.
The State Historic Preservation office recommended looking other options, including doing away with the pool but keeping the bleachers.
“One of alternatives has preserving the bleachers with a beach. That option requires groins to stick out further. Another keeps the bleachers with no beach, only the ocean,” said Kroning.
Next week’s meetings will involve natatorium stakeholders, but will later include the general public.
Kroning said keeping the salt water pool may prove to be a very expensive proposition because of new health department requirements.
So should it be restored no matter what the costs?
“If they can spend all that money to shorten rail, why not spend it on this?” said veteran Randy Howard.
“People see it and think it’s this old thing that’s falling apart, so just tear it down. But I think it would be interesting if they restored and provided information about it,” said Honolulu resident Caleb Woodfin.
“I think it would depend on how much it would cost, but I think it would be interesting if they had a museum or something,” added Emily Grumling who came down to the memorial for the first time.
No matter what gets decided, something’s got to happen soon. As every day passes, more cracks appear on the walls.
The city has been monitoring reports about the facility. There are cracks that have developed in the women’s showers as well as in other areas.
It’s not clear if they are cosmetic or structural, but the city said it may take action if health and safety become an issue.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 16, 2015
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Historic Preservation officials want a third “alternative” considered before the razing
The city’s plan to tear down the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is being pushed back more than a year.
Robert Kroning, the city’s director of design and construction, said officials with the State Historic Preservation Division have asked that the city look into inserting into its draft environmental assessment a third possible “alternative” for the future of the long-contested plan.
Studying such an alternative — something in between full restoration and saving only the arches — would take about 16-18 months, pushing back completion of a draft environmental assessment that the city had hoped would have been completed by April, Kroning told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Friday. “An 18-month delay would probably put us toward the end of 2016,” he said.
A final EIS would probably be completed about six months after that, he said.
Kroning emphasized, however, that the Caldwell administration is not wavering from its previously stated preferred position that calls for most of the nearly century-old structure to be torn down and the area turned into a beach. The Beaux Arts-style arches would be saved and moved back from the shoreline under the plan, which is estimate to cost about $18.4 million.
The draft assessment lists, as the only alternative to demolition, full restoration of the pool, bleachers and arches, as has been sought by preservationists.
SHPD officials, however, recently told the city that they “feel pretty strongly that we should be including at least one more alternative that takes into consideration … saving a little bit more of the memorial than what we have in our preferred alternative,” Kroning said.
Debate over what to do about the dilapidated facility has dragged on for nearly four decades. Built in 1927 as a memorial for those who died in World War I, it was a popular pool for many years. But after years of neglect and disrepair, it was shut down for safety reasons in 1979.
The decision to tear down the Natatorium was reached by the city following the recommendation made in 2009 by a task force comprised of various stakeholders.
In May 2013, Caldwell and then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced that the city and state would work cooperatively to raze the pool and bleachers, and leave the area as open space.
“The city is moving forward with the preferred alternative,” Kroning said.
In a statement, the state Architecture Branch did not say outright that it asked for a third alternative. However, the branch said, “We did attend a site visit on May 29, 2015, to assess the condition of the Natatorium and discuss options that may be identified within the EA including restoration, adaptive reuse, and redevelopment of the site.”
Representatives for both the Friends of the Natatorium, which supports full restoration, and the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which wants a beach there, voiced cautious optimism that the latest developments are positive steps in their respective directions.
Mo Radke, president of the Friends, said the delay “gives me hope that the City and County of Honolulu (is) looking at all the alternatives that they should be looking at and not just narrowing it down to just a couple of options.”
He added, ”If they’re looking to do the right thing historically, socially, civically, financially, well, then looking at all the different options is the smart thing to do.”
Rick Bernstein, Kaimana Beach Coalition leader, said he’s being philosophical about the delay. He said he’s been told that including the third alternative is only a precautionary move that would put the city in a better legal position should a tear-down be challenged.
Bernstein said he expects the city will continue on a course toward tearing down the pool and bleachers. To restore it, he said, would require bringing in commercial entities to support such a costly endeavor.
Remembering and Forgetting at The Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium
This paper was written by Brian Ireland and published in The Hawaiian Journal of History, Volume 39 in 2005. His extensive research found that during World War I only eight Hawai‘i residents actually died by enemy action under the U.S. flag. He examines the memorial’s contentious, colonialist beginnings and questionable symbolism within its historical context.
Read the full paper below, or download it here:
Brian Ireland was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and attended the University of Ulster where he earned a BA in Humanities and an MA in American Studies. He lived in Hawai‘i for five years while he was enrolled in the doctoral program in American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i. He graduated in December 2004 and currently lives in England.
The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 39 (2005)
ON THE WESTERN SLOPE of Diamond Head, commanding a majestic view west towards Waikiki, Honolulu, and further towards Pearl Harbor, there once stood a Native Hawaiian structure known as Papa‘ena‘ena Heiau. Clearly visible from nearby Waikiki village, the heiau or place of worship, measured 130 feet in length and 70 feet in width. It consisted of a mana (supernatural or divine power) house approximately 50 feet long; an oven house (hale umu); a drum house; a waiea or spiritual house; an anu‘u or tower; a lele (altar) and twelve large images. The heiau was bordered by a rectangular wooden fence approximately six to eight feet tall with an eight-foot wide base, which narrowed to three feet at its apex. On the western side of the heiau there were three small terraces, on the highest one of which were planted five kou trees at regular distances from each other. The heiau was the center point of an area of land considered sacred or spiritual to Native Hawaiians, which may have stretched across what is now Kapi‘olani Park as far as to the Kupalaha heiau situated near the present-day intersection of Kalakaua and Monsarrat Avenues.
It is likely that the heiau was built in 1783 by Kahekili, the mo‘i or ruler of Maui, as part of a victory celebration following Kahekili’s conquest of O‘ahu. After King Kamehameha’s victory at the Battle of the Pali in 1895, Kamehameha ordered the sacrifice of the defeated ali‘i (chiefs) of O‘ahu at Papa‘ena‘ena Heiau. The heiau was probably used for sacrificial or sacred purposes for 35 years. However, following the death of Kamehameha and the subsequent diminishment in status and practice of Hawaiian religious beliefs, the heiau was leveled along with many of the other traditional religious heiau and monuments. Its ruins lay relatively undisturbed until the 1850s when the stones that comprised the heiau were carted off to build roads in Waikiki and walls at Queen Emma’s estate. (1)
In sharp contrast to Papa‘ena‘ena Heiau, and nine other sacred structures that once stood in and around Kapi‘olani Park, there now stands an incongruous beaux-arts-style, neoclassical memorial, another place de memoire, called The Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium, which opened in 1927. Although it has fallen into disrepair, in its prime the memorial was an impressive structure. The swimming pool was over 100 meters long, twice the size of an Olympic pool, the mauka (mountain-facing) wall was composed of an arch at least 25 feet high, flanked by two 12-foot arches each topped with four large eagle sculptures. Approximately 9,800 of Hawai‘i’s citizens served in the U.S. armed forces after America’s entry into World War I in 1917 and the names of 101 of those who died are inscribed on a plaque attached to the “Honolulu Stone” situated mauka of the Natatorium and unveiled in 1931. (2)
There is, however, some considerable doubt as to the veracity of those casualty figures. According to statistician Robert Schmitt, of the 9,800 Hawaii residents who served in World War I,
102 died—14 overseas during the war, 61 in Hawai‘i or North America or after the armistice, and 27 in unknown circumstances. Twenty-two of the 102 recorded deaths occurred among Island residents serving with the British. Actual battle deaths of persons in the U.S. armed forces whose preservice residence was Hawai‘i numbered six: seven others were wounded. (3)
These figures are not entirely correct: 101 names are listed on the memorial not 102; eight soldiers were “actual battle deaths,” not six. Nevertheless, these figures raise questions about the purpose of the memorial. Since only eight Hawai‘i residents died by enemy action under the U.S. flag—the others having died of other causes before and after the war’s end—the Memorial obviously exaggerates the death toll, thus magnifying the sacrifices made by “Hawai‘i’s sons.”
Memorials are an important way of remembering. They are not just part of the past; they help shape attitudes in the present and thus act as a guide for the future. Professor Charles Griswold, chair of the philosophy department at Boston University, argues that memorials are “a species of pedagogy” that seeks to instruct posterity about the past and, in so doing, necessarily reaches a decision about what is worth recovering. (4) In Lies Across America, sociologist James Loewen asks, “Where . . . do Americans learn about the past?” He argues persuasively that it is “surely most of all from the landscape.” (5) One recurring theme of Loewen’s analysis of American memorials is their importance as a political statement. Although many memorials outwardly project discourses of “remembering” or “honoring,” they may also have covert and hidden meanings. Rather than simply paying tribute to the dead, the Waikiki War Memorial actually promotes militarism. It is a triumphalist monument to the glory of war, which dishonors the dead by masking the horror of mechanized trench warfare behind a pretty facade and noble but misleading words.
Furthermore, when one adds the memorial’s architectural style, which is so incompatible with its Pacific island setting, to the discrepancy between actual casualty figures and those listed by the memorial, it becomes clear that the Waikiki War Memorial was built also to further the “100% Americanism” of Hawai‘i. The memorial acted as a channel through which Hawai‘i’s American settler community could express its nationalistic pride. Patriotic groups used it to further the cause of Americanism and to glorify war as a noble and heroic sacrificial act. Conveniently forgotten in this narrative, however, are the soldiers actually named on the memorial. Details of why they enlisted, and how and where they died, are missing from the memorial’s dedication. This paper will address how and why these soldiers are remembered by the memorial and evaluate if the extant structure is either the best or only way to remember their deaths.
Local citizens formed a War Memorial Committee in 1918 in response to the promptings of a group called the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors. There were a number of interested parties involved including the Daughters of Hawaii, the Rotary Club, the Outdoor Circle, the Pan-Pacific Union, Central YMCA, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Hawaiian Women’s Guild, Kamehameha Alumni Association, Hawaiian Civic Club, Order of Kamehameha, Longshoremen’s Mutual Aid Association, Knights of Pythias, and the Ad Club. Notable interested individuals included former territorial Attorney General W.O. Smith and territorial tax collector Colonel Howard Hathaway. (6) As historian Kirk Savage has noted, they were following a relatively new trend in monument building that began in the 19th century:
In the expansive era of the nineteenth century, monuments were not bestowed by the state on the citizenry, or at least they weren’t supposed to be. . . What gave monuments their particular appeal in an era of rising nationalism was their claim to speak for ‘the people’. . . Most monuments therefore originated not as official projects of the state but as volunteer enterprises sponsored by associations of ‘public-spirited’ citizens and funded by individual donations. These voluntary associations often had direct links to officialdom, but they received legitimacy only by manufacturing popular enthusiasm (and money) for the project. (7)
The first designs for the memorial had no connection whatsoever to the extant construction. In fact, there was considerable support at one stage for either a memorial designed by architect Roger Noble Burnham (8) to be erected in Palace Square close to the statue of King Kamehameha, or for a Memorial Hall. (9) Burnham suggested that his design would “symboliz[e] Hawaii’s contribution to Liberty. It consists of three figures, the central one typifying Liberty while beneath are a Hawaiian warrior and a Hawaiian maiden. The warrior offers his spear while the maiden extends in outstretched hands a lei.” (10) This design would feature a rostrum enclosed on three sides by a wall. Unlike the extant memorial, Burnham wanted to honor both the military and Hawai‘i’s civilian population, which had contributed to the war by buying bonds and helping the Red Cross. One wall, therefore, would have inscriptions dedicated to Hawai‘i’s civilian population and the other walls would depict military activities.
Burnham’s modest design was championed by Mrs. Walter (Alice) Macfarlane. She was born Alice Kamokila Campbell, daughter of wealthy landowner James Campbell and Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine, who was from a mixed Native Hawaiian and haole (Caucasian) family from Lahaina, Maui. When James Campbell died in 1900, his estate was held in trust for his wife and daughters. Alice Macfarlane, who in later years would become a voice against statehood for Hawai‘i, was a respected and influential woman. She opposed notions of a memorial hall, an auditorium, or civic center as she was concerned that a “memorial hall would commercialize the memory of the men who had paid the supreme sacrifice.” Supporters of the memorial hall design, however, believed that it would become a center of civic life where “people could go and hear enlightening talks and entertaining music.” (11) One other suggestion at this time, by the Chamber of Commerce, was for the memorial either to be placed in a prominent position at the entrance to Honolulu Harbor or on Sand Island, where “it would be the first thing that would greet the arriving traveler, and the last thing he would see.” (12) These early deliberations over the placement of the monument, and its design as either a traditional monument or as a usable, “living” structure, would characterize the nature of the debate for many months.
In early February 1919, further designs were considered; Burnham exhibited sketches of a design that incorporated his original sculpture into a larger design that also included a memorial hall. (13) The cost of this project would be somewhere in the region of $750,000, (14) the equivalent today of $7,674,333.33. (15) Another suggestion at this point was for a very practical memorial that would comprise one new wing of the Queen’s Hospital. (16) Yet another design by T.H. Ripley & Davis architects envisaged an impressive memorial hall surrounded by large Grecian columns, which would feature a large rotunda filled with “statuary tablets.” (17)
On March 24, 1919 it was reported in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser that the War Memorial Committee was finally going to announce that a general design had been agreed upon for a monument and memorial hall to be situated on a “strip of land along Punchbowl Street, between King and Queen Streets.” This was to be the majority report’s proposal. A dissenting minority report, led by Alice Macfarlane, questioned the cost of the proposed memorial and suggested once again that it be limited solely to a monument without the additional expense of a memorial hall. Macfarlane stated that the monument should “emphasize the spiritual side of victory, rather than . . . show the wealth of the community.” (18) The next day, however, the Advertiser reported that the memorial would not be situated on Punchbowl and that proposals had been made to approach the Irwin Estate to buy property at Kapi‘olani Park instead. For some time John Guild, chairman of the Beach Park Memorial Committee, had been in correspondence with the Irwin Estate about buying the property for use as a Pan-Pacific Peace Palace. However, at the War Memorial Committee meeting, Guild suggested that the land be purchased for a war memorial park instead. It seems this was a compromise to ease the tensions raised between those responsible for the majority and minority reports.
The site of the memorial had now been resolved but the debate over its design had not. Guild’s letter to the Legislature envisaged a memorial park with an “arch or statue” as opposed to a memorial hall. (19) Perhaps it was believed that the open spaces of the park would provide a natural amphitheatre and that a hall was no longer appropriate. Or perhaps there was no way to overcome the objections of Mrs. Macfarlane and still maintain a consensus. In any event, Guild was insistent that the memorial plans be given due consideration and that they should not rush into accepting a design. He worried that,
We do not want to erect a monument which shall at some future date be looked upon as a thing of bad taste. Too many of the soldier’s [sic] Monuments of the past have been of this character. I believe the memorial should take a form that will express the spirit of Hawaii and be in harmony with the wonderful tropical surroundings of the proposed site. (20)
Early deliberations over the erection, placement, and design of the memorial took place almost entirely within the American civilian community in Hawai‘i. However, in August of 1919 the newly-formed American Legion entered the fray. (21) Colonel Theodore Roosevelt (son of the ex-president) and other senior officers created the American Legion in France to direct disaffected soldiers away from the lure of socialism. Journalist and author Marcus Duffield states, “The American General Staff was seriously concerned about how to keep up morale. American bankers and business men [sic] who visited Europe returned filled with anxiety. What would be the attitude of returning troops?” (22) By early 1921, the Hawai‘i branch of the American Legion had wrested control of the memorial scheme out of the hands of the citizens’ War Memorial Committee. There is no suggestion of conflict or dispute in the historical record—a Paradise of the Pacific editorial noted simply that the “American Legion . . . has charge of the projected War Memorial”—but it would have taken a very brave or foolish citizen indeed to stand up to military veterans who had so very comprehensively wrapped themselves in the U.S. flag. (23)
Despite many different ideas as to what design would constitute a fitting memorial and where it should be situated, by early 1921 the American Legion’s views held total sway. For example, CJS Group Architects note in their Final Historical Background Report on the memorial, that, “This concept of having a memorial [i.e. one that included a swimming pool] was originally initiated by the American Legion Chapter of Hawai‘i.’’ (24) This despite the fact that the Legion was not involved, in fact did not even exist, when some of Hawai‘i’s citizens were submitting plans and raising interest and money for the memorial in 1918. Of course, arguments over control of projects such as memorials are not unusual: The Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors were complaining as early as January 1919 that “they proposed the memorial first and then later on another element steps in and crowds them.” (25)
However, even given that expected bickering, the question still remains, why did such a new and untried organization quickly gain such a hold over the Memorial project? Perhaps the answer can be seen in the preamble to the American Legion’s constitution, in which the Legion pledges not only to “preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great War” but also to “foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism.” (26) Coming so soon after the end of a devastating world war in which 116,000 Americans were killed, (27) it is hardly a surprise that a veterans’ group would quickly attain a position of influence. However, what made the Legion so powerful was that its aims coincided with those connected to the powerful U.S. military presence in Hawaii, with some of the haole elite who were pushing for statehood, and with others who did not want statehood but did want to make Hawai‘i less alien to their American sensibilities.
At the Memorial Park’s formal dedication on Armistice Day, November 11, 1919, Governor James McCarthy symbolically handed over possession of the park to the American Legion whose Honolulu chapter had been formed barely two months earlier. The Legion’s chaplain, Father Valentin, read prayers at what the Advertiser described as a “semi-military ceremony not without its lessons to present and future generations.” (28) Although the Legion now had control over developing the park, it still had not solved the problem of the design of the war memorial itself. In that respect it had made no more progress than the war memorial committees from which it had assumed control. The Legion did, however, ignore all previous designs and schemes and published instead a rough outline of its own proposals:
. . . an arch or other memorial feature at the shore. To the landward would be an open space under the trees, carefully landscaped and prepared for seats so that memorial exercises, band concerts or other similar events may be held with the arch or monument as the stage and background. To the seaward would be a natatorium, but with its concrete walls rising only high enough above the waterline to keep their tops above the surf. . . By the plan suggested the views along the beach would not be obstructed in any way and yet all the features of other plans, and more, would be preserved. (29)
Unlike Burnham’s earlier design, this was to be a memorial dedicated only to the military, with no recognition of the contribution made to the war effort by Hawai‘i’s civilian population. It is telling that although the Legion was offering prizes for new designs, it had already established what the rough outline of the memorial should be. In fact, its outline is remarkably close to the extant memorial, the only real differences being the incorporation of the arch into the actual natatorium and the omission of the landscaped area on which now stands the Honolulu Stone and plaque.
In 1921, when the Territorial Legislature authorized the appointment of a “Territorial War Memorial Commission” to hold a competition to find an appropriate design for the memorial, Governor McCarthy asked the American Legion to put together the Memorial Committee, effectively handing it total control over the project. Governor McCarthy invited the Legion to submit names for the Memorial Committee and asked Louis Christian Mullgardt to be the Territorial War Memorial Commission’s advisory architect. (30) In choosing Mullgardt, the governor and the American Legion were virtually ensuring that a neoclassical-style beaux-arts memorial would be built. All of the architects favored neoclassical designs. For example, Mullgardt designed the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s “Court of the Ages” and “Tower of the Ages.” The Territorial War Memorial Commission nominated three architects from the mainland to judge the competition: Ellis F. Lawrence of Portland, Bernard Maybeck of San Francisco and W.R.B. Wilcox of Seattle. (31) All three were practitioners of the neoclassical style of design. Furthermore, the winning design had to conform to Mullgardt’s plan for the Memorial Park, in which the war memorial “was to consist of a temple of music, plaza, and collosseum [sic] with swimming basin.” (32) It made no real difference, therefore, who actually won the design competition; it had already been decided that a neoclassical beaux-arts natatorium and landscaped park would be the outcome.
When the judges arrived in Hawai‘i in June 1922 to award the prize, they were met by officials of the American Legion under whose auspices the memorial was to be built. Within a few days the judges awarded the first prize to Lewis Hobart of San Francisco. (33) Between 1922 and 1927, when the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium was finally opened, Hobart’s original design, described as a “dream plan” by Maybeck, was twice pared down to stay within the $250,000 budget. The original plan for a natatorium, temple of music, ticket booth, dressing rooms, and some very elaborate friezes, busts, and murals could not be built within the budget, and after attempts to appropriate more money failed, the temple of music became the cost-cutters’ main casualty.
Like most beaux-arts constructions, the Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium is grandiose and pompous. The entrance is composed of a grand arch flanked by two pilasters projecting slightly out from the wall (pilasters are rectangular supports resembling a flat column). The top of the arch features typical classical ornamentation—a medallion and frieze topped with a round pediment in the Greek Revival style. Two large symmetrical eagles on either side flank the medallion. Adjacent to the main entrance arch are two smaller arches, above each of which is a decorative cartouche set into the wall, topped with elaborate cornices. The effect of the entrance is to present a symmetrical facade, an imposition of order, structure, and planning into the natural disordered surroundings of sea, beach, and parkland. In its imperial grandeur, it means to instruct viewers of the benefits of the stability and order that European civilization can provide. Architectural historian William Jordy states “the idea of stability was . . . implicit in the traditionalism of the Beaux-Arts esthetic; in other words, its academic point of view which held . . . that the past provided vocabularies of form and compositional themes from which the present should learn.” (34)
Memorials can only work as designed when the shared memory of the past is uncontroversial, Historian Kirk Savage points out, for example, that memorials to the American Civil War avoided controversy by memorializing soldiers from both sides but not the disputed causes for which they fought. In the process, these memorial makers erased from their reconstructed history images of slaves and slavery. Conversely, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains controversial because its design reflects the arguments over the war it commemorates. American World War I memorials avoided such controversy by narrating that war as a noble cause, a clear-cut fight between good and evil, freedom and despotism—the evil “Hun” verses the freedom-loving, democratic nations of England and the United States.
While comparisons between war memorials dedicated to different wars can be problematic, some use can be made of comparing and contrasting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington to the Waikiki War Memorial. It should not be expected, of course, that the Waikiki War Memorial should in any way resemble the Vietnam Wall: the former is a product of a victorious war with relatively few American casualties (compared to other Allied losses), the latter is a product of a bitterly divisive war that America lost. However, rather than making any comparison between the two memorials inappropriate, those differences in historical context can actually serve to illustrate the functions of war memorials in a society at any given time.
Unlike, the self-reflective Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, the imposing entrance of Hobart’s structure has most of its decoration and inscriptions well above eye level, and thus demands that its audience step back, crane their necks and look up to the two American eagles. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is made with black reflective granite instead of the triumphant white marble or stone of beaux-arts monuments. Whereas the facade of the Waikiki War Memorial demands that viewers remain passive in contemplation of its majesty, onlookers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can see themselves reflected in the stone, which seems to mirror the self-reflective mood associated with the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The names on the Honolulu Stone plaque are arranged in a rigid and anonymous way: top and center is an eagle holding laurel leaves. Below that there is a five-pointed star in whose center is a circle with the letters “US”. Below that on a banner is the legend “FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.” Below that is the legend “ROLL OF HONOR” and below that again is the quotation, “DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI.” Below that are the words “IN THE SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES.” The names are listed in three columns and split into Army and Navy. Below that, also in three columns, are the names of those who died “IN THE SERVICE OF GREAT BRITAIN.”
These categorizations group the soldiers together as if they died in a common cause, and make them anonymous servants to the greater glory of war. Compare that to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the soldiers’ names are arranged chronologically by date of death instead of country, rank, or regiment. This has the effect not only of verisimilitude— making it real—but also of presenting a more democratic “people’s” memorial rather than a regimented military monument. In order to find a name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, relatives of those killed would need to come prepared with a certain amount of historical information about the war, including the date of the death of their loved one. Whereas most war memorials function as designed only if they remain vague about actual details of a war and its causes, in contrast, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial works only when precise historical details are present. Unlike the interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which asks visitors to reflect on the causes of the war and the folly and waste that war entails, the facade of the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium means to inspire awe and respect for Euro-American achievements, to excuse warfare as a legitimate and honorable way of solving disputes, and to glorify the U.S. military and its role in the conflict.
The Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium is dedicated to war, not peace. However, it is also dedicated to victory. The memorial contains, for example, three triumphal arches (an entrance arch, flanked by two smaller arches). In a 1919 Pacific Commercial Advertiser article, architect C.R. Ripley had warned of the inappropriateness of utilizing such celebratory imagery. Ripley argued, “Surely we want no memorial arches. The watchword of the war has been, ‘To make the world safe for democracy.’ Where does the victory arch typify that inspiration? We want no memorials to glorify war and victory.” (35) Hobart, however, relied heavily on the American Legion’s arch-dominated design, (36) thus ensuring that the memorial would be dedicated to vanquishing America’s enemies.
University of Kansas architecture professor James Mayo points out, “War memorials to victory are trophies that not only keep us mindful of who won, but also assure us that the war was honorable. God was on the side of the victors, and therefore their cause was righteous.” (37) The Waikiki War Memorial fits neatly into Mayo’s analysis of victory monuments: it is made to be “steadfast and solid,” of those good materials [that] are practical expressions of permanence.” The main design on the mauka-facing wall is above head level, a technique, Mayo notes, that “works as a metaphor, since we look ‘up’ to people we respect.” (38) A major theme of this memorial is the sacrifice that Hawai‘i and its citizens made for the greater glory of America. Advocating “peace” instead of victory was seen as weakness; war was a rite of passage to manhood transmitted “through inscriptions on war memorials which lauded martial virtues by accompanying the names of the fallen with adjectives such as ‘brave’ or courageous.” (39)
The Waikiki War Memorial does not make any bold or precise statements about those it commemorates. There are no phrases, for example, like “killed in action” or “killed by enemy fire.” Instead, the memorial is coy and evasive about where and why these soldiers died. It utilizes non-specific phrases such as “For God And Country,” “Roll Of Honor,” “Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori,” “In The Service Of Great Britain,” and “In The Service Of The United States,” all of which could refer to almost any war. Clearly the overall impression the memorial wishes to convey is that the soldiers died for a noble cause, which is why the legend does not linger on any specific reasons for the war, or mention any battles. The effect of this is, as Mayo notes, “facetious,” as the high-minded and abstract ideals mentioned “are not grounded in the ugly realities of war.” (40) In this respect, the memorial is ahistorical. This narrative is, as historian Paul Fussell points out,
typical of popular histories of the war written on the adventure-story model: they like to ascribe clear, and usually noble, cause and purpose to accidental or demeaning events. Such histories thus convey to the optimistic and credulous a satisfying, orderly, and even optimistic and wholesome view of catastrophic occurrences—a fine way to encourage a moralistic, nationalistic, and bellicose politics. (41)
By employing a rhetorical device known as enthymematic argumentation, the memorial gives the impression that 101 persons from Hawaii died in France—79 died fighting under American arms, and 22 in the British Army. In enthymematic argumentation, the speaker builds an argument with one element removed, leading listeners to fill in the missing piece. Since it provides only limited information, one might assume from reading the text on the Honolulu Stone that all of those who died were killed as a result of enemy action. This is, however, not the case. For example, of the 79 who served in the U.S. armed forces, it can be ascertained that only eight were killed by enemy action—seven in France and one, Private Manuel Ramos, on the way to France, when his troopship was torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean. (42) The causes of death of the other 71 soldiers and sailors are more mundane than the memorial would have us believe. Thirty-six died of flu and/or pneumonia in the great epidemic that ravaged the world in 1918, five in accidents, one of suicide, two of heart attacks, eight of unknown causes, and 19 of other natural causes including tuberculosis, cancer, appendicitis, meningitis, blood poisoning, peritonitis ulcer, intestinal obstruction, and brain hemorrhage. Eight of the 71 non-combat-related deaths occurred in France: four of those soldiers died of flu, two in accidents, and two of unknown causes.
Whereas the British public knew by the end of the war that the battlefields of Belgium and France were slaughterhouses, an epiphany which led to the disillusioned literary style of the period, Americans, who had suffered far fewer casualties, and had been fighting for only about six months, from March 1918 until the Armistice in November, were still inclined to think of the war as a “noble cause.” Historian David Kennedy states, “Almost never in the contemporary American accounts do the themes of wonder and romance give way to those of weariness and resignation, as they do in the British.”43 This desire by Americans, to remember the war as dignified and purposeful is also why Latin was chosen as the language of the most forthright statement on the Waikiki War Memorial’s plaque. Such “‘[R]aised,’ essentially feudal language,” as Fussell calls it, is the language of choice for memorials. (44)
By the end of the war, British writers left behind the “high diction” of 19th-century literary tradition—words and phrases like “steed” instead of “horse,” “strife,” instead of “warfare” “breast,” instead of “chest” and “the red wine of youth,” in place of “blood”—and instead described events in a more down-to-earth and realistic way. (45) However, memorials were a different matter: whereas it seemed appropriate, given the high death tolls and brutality of World War I, for writers to change to a more factual and graphic idiom,“high diction” remained the language of monuments and memorials. It seemed somehow inappropriate and disrespectful, given the solid dignified presence of a concrete or marble memorial, to tell the undignified truth about wartime deaths, a truth that would involve grisly descriptions of severed limbs, burst intestines, decapitations, and other bloody injuries. Moreover, if the purpose of the Waikiki War Memorial was to inspire Native Hawaiian devotion to the greater glory of the state (the United States)—to be, as historian John Bodnar states, “reminded of ‘love of country’ and their duty to their ‘native’ land”—it would be self-defeating to remind Hawaiians of the butchery of Flanders. (46)
The purpose of the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium is only superficially a tribute to Hawai‘i’s Great War dead. In fact, the dead were used in death as they were in life, as sacrifices to the gods of war, to militarism, colonialism, and nationalism. This is evident in the memorial’s scale and in its deliberately vague and secretive inscription. James Mayo argues that war memorials “represent failure, the failure to prevent war.” (47) However, the American Legion and its supporters chose to build a huge neoclassical structure that exaggerates Hawai‘i’s role in the Great War. Given the relatively small number of casualties and minor role played by Hawai‘i, a more honest memorial would surely have been the small token affair envisaged by Burnham and championed by Macfarlane.
The Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium represents a grand, overstated tribute to the relatively small number of casualties sustained by residents of Hawai‘i. However, that, of course, is not its true purpose, as is evident in its design and scale. The message that it symbolizes is one of submission to imperial forces and glorification of both war and the American military. This is exemplified by the legend on the Honolulu Stone which reads (in Latin), “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” or “it is sweet and noble to die for one’s country,” from Horace’s Odes. This phrase would not only have been familiar to those with a classical education, but also to a wider audience who had read popular war novels. As historian David Kennedy points out, “one of Edith Wharton’s characters [in her 1918 book The Marne] tearfully meditate[d] on the ancient phrase from Horace: ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’” (48) However, at that time, the more topical and relevant use of that quotation was by British soldier and war poet, Wilfred Owen. His poem entitled Dulce et decorum cautions against the very same triumphant patriotism that the Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium represents:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Both Hobart and the American Legion probably knew of Owen’s poem. Like Siegfried Sassoon, he was well known and widely publicized at that time. They chose, however, to use the quote in its original context—as an obsequious and jingoistic tribute to war.
One-hundred-and-one persons from Hawai‘i died during the Great War. Who can know now what their motivations were in enlisting? Certainly for some it was not to defend the United States, as 30 or so of them enlisted with the British Army before the U.S. even entered the war. On July 31, 1918, a military draft was introduced that applied to all residents of the United States between the ages of 21 and 30, whether native born, naturalized, or alien. The draft was expanded in October 1917 to all male residents between the ages of 19 and 40. In total 4,336 of those who registered for the draft were called up to serve in the 1st and 2nd Hawaiian Infantry. (49) Of the 79 non-Navy U.S deaths recorded on the memorial, 40 men served with the 1st or 2nd Hawaiian Infantry. These units were, in effect, the Hawai‘i National Guard, federalized and sent to Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks, or garrison duty to release other more professional troops for war service. A soldier in these units had little chance of being sent to France. Many of them worked as laborers in the sugar plantations and, as scholar Charles Warfield notes, Washington recognized that Hawai‘i’s sugar was more important than any contributions in terms of manpower that it could make to the war:
The National Guard had been organized with the idea that it would be used only for the defense of the Islands and would never be sent overseas. A large proportion of its ranks was composed of men who were indispensable to the sugar industry of the Islands, which had been greatly expanded during the war in Europe. If the National Guard of Hawaii were mobilized when the United States went to war it would seriously cripple the sugar industry. (50)
Twenty-five of the non-Navy soldiers who are named on the memorial enlisted after July 1918, and 36 of the 67 men enlisted in non-naval forces were attached to the 1st and 2nd Hawaiian Infantry. In other words, nearly one third of those who died while serving in the U.S. military may have been unwilling draftees, not volunteers, and almost one half may have joined the Hawaii National Guard to avoid having to go overseas to fight in the World War. (51)
Of the 72,000 residents of Hawai‘i registered for the draft as eligible to fight, 29,000—or 40 percent—were issei and nisei. Of the total that actually did serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, 838—approximately nine percent—were of Japanese descent. (52) Since Japan was at war with Germany at this time, who can say with any certainty that those from Hawai‘i were fighting for either America or for Japan? If they were fighting for the U.S., like the famous 442nd Regiment of World War II, how many enlisted to prove their loyalty in an unwritten test that should never have been enacted? Undoubtedly, those involved in the advocacy, planning, design, and building of the Waikiki War Memorial were mostly haole. There is little evidence, for example, of the involvement of Native Hawaiians or Japanese residents of Hawai‘i. Indeed, it is ironic that 838 Japanese residents of Hawaii volunteered to fight in France yet the American military, which in 1919 had asked the Hawai‘i State Legislature to pass a bill regulating Japanese language schools, and the American Legion, which gave that bill its full support, were extremely antagonistic in both rhetoric and action to Japanese culture in Hawai’i. (53)
Most newspaper accounts of Hawai‘i during the Great War paint a picture of a dedicated, patriotic populace, eager to do “its bit” for the war effort. Occasionally, there is some slippage in this narrative. For example, a 1919 Advertiser headline complained that, “not enough Hawaiians are on hand at the railroad depot when the mustered-out soldiers arrive there each day from Schofield Barracks to form a real welcoming committee. Representative citizens are in a feeble minority in the crowds.” This was in contrast to the U.S. mainland where “every town that has a railroad depot has its crowds on hand when a train comes in and the returning boys are given the biggest kind of welcome.” (54)
Author and sociologist Albert Memmi has noted that it is the colonialist’s “nation’s flag which flies over the monuments” in a colonized country and that the colonialist “never forgets to make a public show of his own virtues, and will argue with vehemence to appear heroic and great.” (55) Both of these descriptions aptly fit the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium. It glorifies war and acts to consolidate the American imperialist presence in Hawai‘i. Its celebration of the deaths of men for “freedom and democracy” masks the fact that World War I was fought between imperial powers, many of which were governed by unelected monarchies. Historian Jonathan Schell argues, “every political observer or political actor of vision has recognized that if life is to be fully human it must take cognizance of the dead.” (56) But what is the proper way to remember the dead of a senseless world war? Should they be used, as the American Legion and others seemed to think, to perpetuate patriotic, pro-militaristic narratives? The architectural folly that is the Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium should remind us that, instead of glorifying war, nationalism, and militarism, there is no better tribute to those fallen than to remember war’s waste and futility.
MidWeek: Politics: Just Thoughts, September 24, 2014
By Bob Jones
I just don’t understand the reasoning by those who say we cannot demolish Waikiki Natatorium because it was erected as a memorial to World War I soldiers from here.
I mean, we’re not suggesting tearing down the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or unearthing the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
This is … well, let’s approach it honestly:
It’s a rather unattractive cement arch. Nobody’s buried there. Nobody even knows to whom, individually, it’s dedicated.
There’s a stone and plaque mauka of it that hardly any visitors bother reading. It’s a weathered cement arch and nothing more.
If Frank Fasi were still mayor, you’d probably wake up one morning and find the natatorium no longer there, and in its place a wonderful beach and family picnic area.
Of course, my critics will say, “That was the problem with Frank Fasi. He didn’t follow the democratic process. He just did things.”
I had my problems with Fasi “just doing things,” and I can’t recommend that method of governance. We used to call it fascism.
But, in this case, we’ve had studies; we’ve taken the issue out to communities. I’d say it’s past time for the governor and the mayor to quit playing Mr. Nice Guy, make a decision and go with it.
The sensible decision is to demolish the pool. That’s for sure.
The other decision should be to gauge just how strong public opinion is against either taking down or moving that so-called “historic arch.” I sense that there’s about a 5 percent gang that says no. Most people who don’t live near it would vote “who cares?” It does not affect their lives one way or the other.
But, realistically, look at that facade. I cannot fathom why any organization favoring historic sites considers that one of them. It is grotesque architecture not even admired for the time in which it was built. It looks like something done with leftover cement from some nearby high-rise project. Check out those “bottles” on top made to look like ancient Greek amphoras. Cheesy.
A compromise would be to commission some appropriate — and small — sculpture adjacent to the memorial stone and plaque honoring our few WWI dead.
We did not suffer heavily in that war. It was far away and involved very few soldiers from Hawaii. It did not interrupt our social or economic life for a single day. It’s not intertwined with our history.
So let’s quit mythologizing Waikiki Natatorium and get on with restoring that area as a much-needed beach access area for today’s families.
I’m thinking that even Pvt. John Rupert Rowe, the first from Hawaii killed in combat in WWI, might agree with that because we already honor him at Oahu Cemetery, not at the natatorium.
Pacific Business News
July 23, 2014
The project to redevelop the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, which includes creating a new beach fronted by a replica World War I memorial arch that could cost more than $18 million, is gaining some traction.
The City and County of Honolulu recently submitted a 141-page final environmental assessment and environmental impact statement preparation notice done by Aiea-based WCP Inc., to the state.
This notice, which triggers a 30-day public comment period, is to let the public know that a full environmental impact statement will be done because of the anticipated impacts it could have on the environment, as well as gather input on the project. A final EIS on the project is expected to be completed in summer 2016.
Last year, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced a plan to spend $18.4 million to demolish the pool, which has been closed for years, move the historic arch identifying it as a war memorial, and create a new public beach on the site.
Officials at the time said it would cost $69.4 million to restore the pool decks, which are crumbling into the ocean. An updated cost of the project is expected to be disclosed in the EIS.
The plan, which includes aligning the replica arch with the existing Roll of Honor plaque and hau tree arbor, also involves building a new bathhouse, the removal of an internal roadway and construction of a consolidated parking lot.
The purpose of the project is to improve the Waikiki War Memorial Complex area of Kapiolani Regional Park by renewing the memorial to World War I veterans and to fully reopen that portion of the park to the public, as well as to bring new life to the deteriorating structure.
The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial was recently named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which supports the search for alternatives to the city and state plan to redevelop the 6.7-acre site bounded by the Waikiki Aquarium, Kalakaua Avenue, the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and the ocean.
MidWeek: Lifestyle/Island Matters, June 4, 2014
By Mufi Hannemann
A crumbling structure with faded memories is the focus of a newly designated national treasure in Hawaii, which continues to serve as a setting to remember those who lost their lives in the armed forces during the first World War. Last week, on Memorial Day, dignitaries, residents and visitors alike had a chance to hear moving tributes at the Natatorium War Memorial in Waikiki.
Now a ruin and one of the last standing architectural landmarks of old Hawaii, the island icon has received a great deal of attention both nationally and locally this month. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which comes on the heels of demolition and preservation plans — pending further review.
“To be demolished or not to be” has long been a subject of controversy over the decades. I applaud the City and County of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii, which are following through on plans that stemmed from a task force I commissioned as Honolulu mayor back in May 2009. I accepted the findings back then made by a 16-member task force to demolish the historic site and build two groins in order to create a beach, and restore/rebuild the arches inland. In its place would be a public memorial and a stadium, ensuring that we always pay proper tribute to our World War I heroes, and also providing our water enthusiasts with an expanded Waikiki beach area.
This dual commitment by both the city and state governments showing collaborative restoration efforts is a positive step forward to getting beyond the status quo predicament in which we have been mired for much too long. For those who feel that the $18.4 million price tag delves too deeply into the pocketbooks of Hawaii taxpayers, a full restoration of the natatorium would cost nearly $69 million! Moreover, a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser online poll resulted in 90 percent of the respondents in favor of the plan recommended by the 2009 task force. The work is expected to begin in 2015 with a timeline completion of two years.
I would like to personally acknowledge again Collin Lam (my former deputy director at the city’s Department of Design and Construction) who chaired the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force, and all the community members who laid the groundwork with the help of city and state officials and consultants for the plan that is being lauded today. Other members are Lt. Gen H. C. Stackpole (veteran), Rick Bernstein (Kaimana Beach Coalition), Jean Pierre Cercillieux (Kaimana Beach Hotel), Dr. Chip Fletcher (UH professor of ocean engineering), Edgar Hamasu (veteran), state Rep. Ken Ito (veteran), Dr. Andrew Rossiter (Waikiki Aquarium), Rick Egged (Waikiki Improvement Association), Donna Ching (Friends of the Natatorium), Kiersten Faulkner (Hawaii Historic Foundation), Fred Ballard (veteran), Art Caleda (veteran), Brian Keaulana (waterman), Hannie Anderson (paddler) and Tim Guard (businessman and military affairs advocate).
Their recommendation was no easy task. The other options thoroughly studied were: 1) Keep the natatorium as is; 2) Relocate the arches to a different site on Oahu; 3) Conduct a full restoration; or 4) Turn it into a beach volleyball and aquarium site. The final vote was nine to three — seven members were in favor of the creation of a new beach, three raised their hand for full restoration and two voted for the demolition and construction of a world-class aquarium.
* Since we are on the subject of national treasures, William W. “Bill” Paty Jr., a veteran of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, is himself a living treasure. He was an Army captain and member of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day with thousands of other soldiers. He was captured as a POW, had two failed attempts at fleeing the enemy and was later decorated with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his bravery and survival.
Paty, a former agricultural executive and chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in the Waihee administration, will be the guest of honor Friday at the Home of the Brave Brewseum. It is the newest edition to Glen Tomlinson’s World War II museum located at 909 Waimanu St. in Kakaako. Tomlinson features one of the largest collections of WWII memorabilia that you will ever see in the Pacific. How fitting it is that Paty, who rarely speaks of his combat experience, will be recognized there for his valiant military service on the 70th anniversary of D-Day this Friday.
On behalf of his countless admirers, I send a special salute to a very deserving patriot of our times.
Hawaii Public Radio
Town Square: Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Excerpt transcribed by the Kaimana Beach Coalition.
Beth-Ann Kozlovich: Maybe you remember the picture from last year – Governor Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell standing together at the Natatorium to announce their decision to replace the crumbling structure with a memorial beach. Many people thought the issue had been settled; then last week the National Trust placed the Natatorium on its list of national treasures. That stirred up a whole debate again and brought out one point on which all sides can agree: nothing can actually be decided until the Environmental Impact Statement comes out next year.
Jim Bickerton is here representing the Kaimana Beach Coalition. Nice to have you back.
Jim Bickerton: Good morning, Beth-Ann, thanks for having me.
BAK: So how much of a surprise was that announcement last week for all of you by the National Trust?
JB: Not really a big surprise, it’s just an extension of what they’ve been trying to do for a while. People don’t realize that the National Trust is not a government agency – it’s a private organization, just like the Historic Hawaii Preservation Society. They’re well-intended people with – their plan is to preserve things, we certainly understand people want to try to do that. But this is a mainland group and this is a homegrown solution that we have here that it looks like the community has really gotten behind. Right after you had the gentlemen from the National Trust on your show, the Star-Bulletin ran a poll – I think they had over 4,000 responses, which is very high, if not the highest level of response – and over 80% of the people [who] responded supported the solution that both the Mayor and the Governor have gotten behind.
And a lot of people don’t also appreciate that it’s a compromise solution – it is a memorial beach. I watched the Memorial Day service on television on Sunday and the beautiful arch was in the picture, the wall was in the picture, the great stone with the plaque, those were all in there – and they’re still gonna be there in the memorial beach. Instead of having a dead memorial, which is what we have now, we’ll have a living memorial that the community can use 365 days a year.
BAK: Their point is that it should also be a living memorial, but in the way it would be preserved, as it is right now. Don’t we really need to sort of wait it out and just see what happens with the EIS next year? Because their point seems to be, well, if you get in there and start disturbing a bunch of stuff you really don’t know what it is you’re going to do, and until that EIS is done, should we all just not be talking about this for a while?
JB: Well I think that’s a fair point. We should all wait for the EIS, but one of the things – you know, they call themselves restorationists, but what they really are is rebuilders. Because what people need to know is that the Natatorium was built with very outdated technology – it’s falling apart. And so to restore it requires it to be scraped right down to the seabed and built from the ground up again. And so it really isn’t about restoring something; it’s what are we gonna build there. What’s there now has to go away. Are we gonna build something that’s outdated, that isn’t healthy in an environment where people can fly in from all around the world with every virus and bacteria known to man, or are we gonna build something that has worked around the islands, which is a public beach park? That’s the question. We think we know the right answer, but we’re certainly looking forward to the city’s Environmental Impact Statement.
BAK: Jim, this is such an emotional issue, and it’s emotionally generational too, given the fact that it’s been around for most of my life and for a lot of people who say, enough already, get we just get a decision and do something – do you think that once we get that EIS we’re actually going to be at that point? And not where a lot of people perhaps thought we were last year with the decision?
JB: I think that the EIS is going to answer a lot of questions. I do think that we’ll be at that point. But I think that the emotions about this will continue for a long time to come. But it has changed over time. I mean, support for the current solution that the Mayor and the Governor are proposing is at its greatest level that it’s ever been. And so I think part of it is that as people become aware of how limited our beach resources are and how tough it’s going to be to get to Ala Moana Park when they build ten, twenty, thirty thousand units in Kaka‘ako, they’re really gonna cherish that open space on the beach and realize how valuable it is. And so I think – one thing I have great confidence in, this community – we do work things out in the end, and good solutions are found. What we’re saying is, this is the solution that’s already been found. It was through a task force, it was through debate, it was a compromise, and so really to come in and try to say, well it’s got to be this all-or-nothing solution that the rebuilders want, it goes against I think the way that we’ve solved our problems here.
BAK: In the meantime, over the summer there will be hearings; people will be able to weigh in. It’s not as if it’s either/or but it’s still in the business of gathering information.
JB: Yes, and I think in that regard I’d like to give a plug to our Web site, because we have lots of just objective, concrete information, old articles –
BAK: No pun intended?
JB: There you go. Concrete. It’s savekaimanabeach.org, and we’ve got archive materials going back many, many years. So people who are interested in the issue can bone up on it and give their input to these hearings.
BAK: Well part of that is what obviously both you and the Trust have been asking of people, [to] really do some homework, do some research, look at it – and if you can, get yourself down there too, and see what’s really there, because very often what’s in your memory isn’t necessarily what’s there in reality. And then try to compare some of those ideas. But once we have the EIS, there sort of is the feeling that maybe that will be the point. Given all the emotionalism, the opposite may be true too.
JB: Well, it’s – you know, I’ve been with this for over twenty years now, and I –
BAK: That’s why I’m asking you!
JB: – I have a hard time believing that we’ll ever come to a complete end to it. But we keep plugging away. I think information is the key, information to people is very key. And you just have to also look to the future and think about what we really need in this community. And that’s what I think is gonna drive it in the end – what does the community need? The environmental impacts are gonna be there no matter what you build. And there’s an environmental impact to doing nothing, because it’s crumbling into the sea. We just have to find out what they’re gonna be, weigh them, and make a good decision.
BAK: The community, though, is changing. And we’re watching more people move to Hawaii. There are a lot of suggestions – as we come closer to 2020 there will be far fewer people who were born and raised in Hawaii, and that changes sensitivity to what Hawaii may be all about as we move forward into the future. The idea of the beach versus the memorial, obviously very far away from the first World War, and the need for the beach. Do you think that is going to be, what’s going to be uppermost in people’s minds?
JB: Well, I do think that serving the community is the most important thing. Remembering the past is a very important thing. That’s why the memorial’s incorporated into the beach idea. But you can’t take that whole hundred yard stretch of beach and devote it to something that can’t be used on a daily basis by the people. The other thing is the expense – we don’t talk about that. People talk about, how much does it cost to build it? But how much does it cost to maintain going forward? We have beach parks all around this island because they are easy to maintain. They don’t cost the government a lot, they bring a lot of joy and recreation to people. And so when you weigh that cost versus the high cost of maintaining a pool, a concrete pool in the middle of the ocean, against the benefits that it can bring, I think that type of comparison will drive the decision too.
BAK: Right. As we talk about with many things, that it’s not just getting it to a certain point, but how are you gonna keep it at that point as you move into the future? One thing is for sure – in our future we have a lot more discussion about the Natatorium whether we like it or not!
JB: I think I’ll be back next year!
BAK: Thanks very much, Jim. Jim Bickerton has been practicing law in Hawaii for more than 25 years and is a founding partner of the firm that bears his name. He represents the Kaimana Beach Coalition.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 22, 2014
Total Voters: 4,252
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 24, 2014
After decades of disagreements over what to do about the crumbling and long-closed Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, the city and state governments joined forces last year on an affordable and respectful plan that would preserve the memorial’s distinctive arches and demolish the dangerously corroded swimming pool and stadium and replace those elements with a public memorial beach.
That plan, which is now under environmental review, is consistent with the 2009 recommendations of the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force, a city advisory group comprising a diverse group of stakeholders. The group heard impassioned pleas from community members who want to fully restore the Natatorium at all cost, and others who were equally insistent that the once-grand structure had degraded into an inaccessible eyesore, so should be torn down before it collapses into the ocean off Kaimana Beach.
The task force heard from all quarters and completed laborious reading and research before voting 9-3 on what should be considered a meaningful compromise that serves current and future Hawaii taxpayers as well as the memories of the World War I veterans to which the landmark is dedicated.
The task force’s recommendation was to restore the Beaux Arts arches and move them slightly inland, tear out the decaying saltwater pool and surrounding grandstand seating, and devote the newly available land to expanding the adjacent public beach.
This plan is the right one and the city and state should continue to pursue it, despite the intervention this week of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The national preservation group added the 87-year-old Natatorium to its list of “national treasures,” re-energizing opposition to demolishing any part of the monument and raising hopes that major donors might emerge to help fund a restoration.
But this action should not deter the state and city from moving ahead. Similar help has been sought in the past, and the Natatorium is already recognized as an architectural landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and has a place on Hawaii’s Register of Historic Places.
The Natatorium has been closed since 1979, off limits to swimmers as too risky. Those who claim that partial demolition would disrespect the memories of Hawaii’s long-departed World War I veterans ignore the fact that to allow the Natatorium to persist in its present squalid state is a much greater insult. Nor is it fair to ask Hawaii taxpayers to pay the estimated $70 million it would cost to fully restore the site — which does not include what would be very costly upkeep that likely would require commercializing the facility.
By contrast, tearing out the pool and bleachers and developing a free, public memorial beach are estimated to cost $18.4 million.
The Waikiki Natatorium’s place in Hawaii’s historical record is secure, but it must adapt to the current landscape. It is inconceivable that such a saltwater stadium would be built in Waikiki today, with all we know about the science of beach erosion and climate change. Fully restoring the Natatorium would be akin to building it anew, which is neither a sound financial nor environmental decision.
The community must move forward with the fair compromise embraced by the city and state.