Witness to History

Our growing collection of first-person opinion and commentary; the observations of citizens, community leaders, and elected officials during the long, complicated Natatorium controversy. Keep watching this space for many other current and older archival documents.

Remembering and Forgetting at The Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium

This paper was written by historian 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 overseas. He examines the memorial's contentious, colonialist beginnings and questionable symbolism within its historical context.
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Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial as it looks today. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the heels of demolition vs. preservation plans here | Photo courtesy Sandra Sagisi

Making Progress On Natatorium Future

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.
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The Conversation: Natatorium Follow-Up: Jim Bickerton

Hawaii Public Radio / Town Square: Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 - 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.
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Town Square: Historic Preservation

Hawaii Public Radio / Town Square: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2014 - On this Town Square, we talked with chief preservation officer, David Brown, and senior field officer from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Brian Turner, about the preservation of the Natatorium and the overall preservation of historical sites.
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From Our Files: Architecture

Honolulu Magazine February 2013 / A. Kam Napier - We now know the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium as a sadly neglected monument to Hawaii’s losses in World War I, but, in 1920, it hadn’t even been built yet and wasn’t the only proposal for the site. Our predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific, argued against the natatorium, declaring its swimming pool to be undignified and unserious, inevitably to be used by a “yelling mob.”
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Documents Indicating Concert Venue Preference

From the state government email records that the Kaimana Beach Coalition obtained in September 2012 via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).
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Jeremy Harris — The Exit Interview

Honolulu Advertiser October 2004 / Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris - "Announcing a decision before you read the analysis or speak to the experts is alarming. And if you do tear it down, you have to invest about $20 million to rebuild piers out into the water, stone groins, or else the beach will be gone within a month, because the Natatorium created the sandy beach."
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Letter From An Anonymous Structural Engineer

The coalition received this letter from a concerned structural engineer who wishes to remain anonymous for political and business reasons. "As a matter of fact the Department of Health requirements for a concrete bottom and pumps would further invalidate any design that doesn’t presently accommodate these requirements."
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The Truth About Historic Preservation: Adaptive Re-use of the Natatorium

By James J. Bickerton, Esq. and Douglas A. Codiga, Esq. - Contrary to the Harris administration's assertions, historic preservation laws would not prevent the creation of a memorial beach along the lines proposed by the Kaimana Beach Coalition. Although the Natatorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Hawaii Register of Historic Places, these designations are not the end of the story.
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Letter From Kevin Bodge, Senior Engineer

"I was surprised to learn that there is continued interest in permitting the Natatorium restoration project in its proposed, mostly enclosed configuration. Based upon my brief review of the project’s documents and limited site visits, I do not believe that the proposed design will function as intended or claimed."
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Memories of Duke Kahanamoku and the Natatorium

"He was too polite to say so, but it became very clear that Duke just didn't want to swim in the Natatorium." In 1967, long-time staff photographer for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, John Titchen, received a call from the Editor of Sports Illustrated and Titchen was retained to "shoot a photo of Duke swimming in the Natatorium," ostensibly for the cover of the renowned magazine.
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Which Came First, the Waikiki Natatorium – or the World War I Memorial?

A 1999 letter from Senator J. Ward Russell: "We have an official World War I Memorial Park with an attached obsolete, deteriorated, salt-water swimming pool plus limited access to a small, beautiful, heavily-used sandy beach."
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Mufi’s Switch

MidWeek July 14, 1999 / by Mufi Hannemann - "The city's poor fiscal condition, the council's recent decision to raise real property tax rates, and other urgent needs tell us that we can't afford to undertake this costly restoration in full."
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Letter From Fred Trask, Civil Engineer

A 1998 letter from Fred Trask, a Registered Professional Civil Engineer and past president of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. Mr. Trask competed at the Natatorium in 1948 and 1949 while swimming for the University of Hawaii.
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Murky Memorial

Honolulu Weekly, August 20, 1997 / Rick Bernstein - The people of Honolulu may soon lose something very special – a rare recreational haven along the south shore for locals – to monied interests and the tourist industry. Kaimana Beach, arguably the last local beach in Waikiki, will be severely affected by an $11.5 million plan to renovate the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
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Letter From Dr. Bruce Anderson

A 1997 letter from Bruce Anderson, Deputy Director for Environmental Health, State of Hawaii Department of Health - "Dear Mayor Harris: Your support of the restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium as a salt water pool without considering other alternatives came as a surprise.... [we have] serious concerns... about the health and safety of the pool and strongly recommend that you look at possible alternatives."
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Official Letter From Marilyn Bornhorst

The 1982 recommendation from the Waikiki Task Force to the DLNR and Governor George Ariyoshi that "the Natatorium be demolished as soon as possible... the Task Force's position is that limited prime beach property should be used for the general public."
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Official Letter From Donald A. Bremmer

A 1982 letter from Donald Bremmer, the Executive VP of the Waikiki Improvement Association, to Governor George Ariyoshi, encouraging "the demolition of the Natatorium and the conversion of the Natatorium shore-front into new public beach space."
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