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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Historic Kawaiaha'o Hall lends majesty to Mid-Pac

By Robert M. Fox and David Cheever / Special to the Star-Advertiser

  August 4, 2013 

Typical of Hawaii, Mid-Pacific Institute today is an amalgam of ethnic groups. But in its early days it was really two schools without much diversity, made up of Kawaiaha‘o Seminary (1864), for the daughters of missionaries, and Mills School (1892), for boys of Chinese ancestry. Both were schools started in separate private homes.

Around 1905, the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, which administered both schools, decided to bring them together and, after examining several sites, settled on purchasing 32 acres in Manoa.

The school newspaper, the Oriental Student, reported in 1907, "Guided by the advice of the architect, and the suggestions of the contour of the land itself, a beautiful and most satisfactory site was chosen. From this breezy and elevated hillcrest a superb view is obtained of our grand old landmark, Diamond Head, and the sweep of the blue Pacific, fringed with coconut palms."

The usual missionary names — Atherton, Castle, Bishop, Rice, Cooke and Wilcox — who had funded the original Kawaiaha‘o Seminary came through again and built Atherton Hall in 1908 on the hill crest of the new campus. A few years later it was renamed Kawaiaha‘o Hall, which is the name today.

Designed by Henry Livingston Kerr, this 62,000-square-foot grand building dominated the landscape of Manoa just after the turn of the century. Today the school says that Kawaiaha‘o Hall stands as the oldest multistory building in Manoa.

The most outstanding feature of the modified H-Plan building is its stonewall exterior, varying in thickness from 24 to 36 inches, and built with fieldstone quarried from the site itself.
Kawaiaha‘o Hall has been described as adapted "Mission Style," with its wings forming wide courts protected from the force of the wind.

A companion building nearly of the same design, first called Damon Hall and then Wilcox, was built lower on the campus in 1910. Both buildings presented some serious fire hazards and, indeed, Damon suffered a devastating fire in 1950 and was not rebuilt.

Kawaiaha‘o Hall, with its leaky roof and potential fire problems, was slated for demolition in 1953 but was saved when it was discovered that it would cost more to tear it down and build new than to keep the building.

By now an overriding concern of the school's Board of Managers was "the preservation and restoration of the majestic Kawaiaha‘o Hall itself." The result was that in 1983 the building was gutted inside and extensively remodeled to accommodate areas for music, performing arts, communication and foreign language, as well as refurbishment of the library resource center.

The renovation won an award from the American Institute of Architects for Richard Kotake, AIA, a Mid-Pacific alum.

It is interesting to note that Kawaiaha‘o Hall is not on the National or State Registers of Historic Places. Maybe it should be with all its history and grandeur.

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