By Order of Kamehameha
Kalaniana`ole Hall restoration breaks ground.
By Jennifer Smith
In 1937 by order of Kamehameha, the first gathering place for Native Hawaiians in the Territory of Hawaii opened its doors on Molokai. Kalaniana`ole Hall served as a place for Hawaiian families to care for the sick and provide the dead with a fitting burial.
The hall would go on to be listed on the State Register of Historic Places and serve as a clubhouse to support social gatherings. From community meetings and hula lessons, to martial arts practices and movie screenings, several generations of Molokai community residents have memories in the hall.
Unfortunately, over 70 years of hard weather and frequent use have deteriorated the building into almost disrepair. Luckily thanks to the continued support of community members and several organizations, the restoration of Kalaniana`ole Hall will soon bring the building back to its original beauty.
A blessing held last week Monday marked the beginning of what will hopefully be somewhere between a three to five month restoration.
Kupuna of Kalamaula and members of Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima, the Molokai chapter of Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii and current owners of the hall, reminisced as Reverend Anna Lou Arakaki began the ceremony with a pule. Aunty Sheila Awana followed with a blessing for the building, which was also the site of her high school graduation.
“We are trying to bring it back to what it was like when it was first built,” said David Bayly, foreman for Stein and Son, Inc., the company hired to conduct the restoration. He said the completion date will be dependent on time and materials.
The company is trying to use as much of the original building as possible, but Bayly said the building is old and full of termites. “Another year or so and we would have had to bulldoze it, but I think we caught it in time.”
The Maui based company has done several other restoration projects, including Keomuku Church on Lanai, Pioneer Inn and other buildings on Front Street in Lahaina.
On Monday Stein and Son, Inc., brought in four more workers, and two local carpenters to assist in the restoration.
And with the help of Staff Sergeant Lester Delos Reyes, 11 members of the National Guard made a big dent in the first week of construction.
“We were fortunate to get involved,” Lieutenant Dale Balsis said. “We are trying to help out the community … so they have a gathering place.”
The National Guard members were here for one week on their annual training. According to Lieutenant Balsis this was their first restoration/demolition, they typically build from the ground up.
“It was really exciting for the guys,” to learn something new and help out the community in the process, Lieutenant Balsis said.
Mycrogen also donated a crew and backhoe to help speed up the work. Community volunteers provided meals for the crews last week.
“The renewal of Kalaniana`ole Hall means keeping the memories of past generations alive for the benefit of generations to come,” said Stacy Crivello, Molokai Enterprise Community (EC) president, in a press release.
The EC, also known as Ke Aupuni Lokahi (KAL), Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Friends of Kalaniana`ole Hall, Lokahi Pacific, USDA Rural Development, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima, were among the organizations who came together to make the restoration of the hall a reality.
“We want to go back to the concept of Native Hawaiians being presented to death with dignity,” said Billy Akutagawa, member of the Friends of Kalaniana`ole Hall. He said the restoration has been a long time coming, and is excited to see it underway.
According to Akutagawa a dedication was held about three years ago for the hall, but with only $100,000 and a large dependence on a volunteer based workforce, the restoration hit several stumbling blocks. However, a license agreement between KAL, DHHL, and Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima now ensures that the building will finally receive the much needed care it deserves.
To date, funds committed include $550,000 from OHA through the efforts of Trustee Colette Machado, $55,000 from KAL, and $100,000 from USDA Rural Development. Plans for the restoration were prepared by Mason Architects, Inc., an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation. Maui Architectural Group, also with historic preservation expertise, has also contributed to the process.