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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Century of Marine Corps History Celebrated at Pearl Harbor's Historic Puller Home

100-year-old home reflects Marines’ rich harbor history

By William Cole

Honolulu Star Advertiser, September 16, 2013 
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commemorated the centennial anniversary of the "Chesty" Puller House at Pearl Harbor on September 15. The historic house was one of four built in 1913 and designed by architect Jules H. de Sibour. It is the oldest Marine garrison in Hawaii and once housed the Marine Corps' Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Burwell Puller and his family from 1948-1950. Lt. Gen. Puller's military career in the Marine Corps spanned 37 years. During that time he was honored with the Navy Cross five times plus the Distinguished Service Cross. Pictured in the garden, by the side of the house, is Commander Navy Region Hawaii Historian Jim Neuman. (Photos: Cindy Ellen Russell)

A century of Marine Corps history at Pearl Harbor was celebrated Sunday (September 15) with a reception at the home named after one of the most famous Marines of all: Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Burwell Puller.

Puller, who received five Navy Crosses for heroism and gallantry in action, lived in the two-story Italian Renaissance-style home on Russell Avenue from 1948 to 1950 as a colonel.
The house, and two others like it, was completed in 1913 based on a design by French architect Jules Henri de Sibour.

The earliest Marine Corps barracks at Pearl Harbor also was built in 1913, officials said. A fourth home was built as a duplex a year later in a similar style.

The stately concrete residences with high ceilings, spacious yards and big monkeypod trees are part of a 100-year Marine Corps presence at Pearl Harbor that still includes the old Marine barracks and a former administration building, named Puller Hall, ringing a parade ground.

Pictured is a portrait of Lt. Gen. Puller in the enclosed lanai of the house.
Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, head of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, lives with his wife, Cathe, in the Chesty Puller house, also known as Quarters No. 1.

The homes, which are also used by the Navy, are tucked away on a less trafficked portion of the base than the Craftsman-style Hale Alii residences where commanders including Adm. Samuel Locklear III, head of U.S. Pacific Command, reside.

The Marines go back as far as the Navy at Pearl Harbor, a base historian says.

“When the base was established, when we were starting to build this base at the turn of the 20th century, one of the first things that Cmdr. John Merry asked for was a contingent of Marines for security of the base,” said Navy Region Hawaii historian Jim Neuman.

They were probably happy to make the move. Neuman said Marines were living in coal sheds in 1904 in Hono­lulu “and asked for better accommodations, of course, and that’s when this (Marine) base was built.”

At the time, about all that was at Pearl Harbor was the Marine barracks, the shipyard, the Hale Alii homes and a coaling station, Neuman said.

Cathe Robling said old photos show that the area was “nothing but sugar cane fields” when they were building the home she now lives in.

Pictured is the dining room of the house.

The Marines played a big role in Pearl Harbor’s security, Neuman said.

“A lot of Marines came through here in World War II, obviously,” he said. “There were 1,000 Marines in the 1930s as they were doing exercises, 3,000 Marines (on) Dec. 7, 1941, and there were always thousands of Marines on this base heading out, many of them on Navy ships, so though it’s Marine barracks on a Navy base, I think the two are very much tied together.”

Quarters 1 served as the home of the commanding officer of Marine Barracks Pearl Harbor, including Puller from 1948 to 1950.

Puller is revered in Marine Corps lore. He earned an Army Distinguished Service Cross and his fifth Navy Cross as commander of the 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during fighting in bitter subzero weather to break out of Korea’s Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

He fought Caco rebels in Haiti in the early 1920s, arrived in Hawaii in 1926 for his first tour at the Marine barracks at Pearl Harbor, received his first two Navy Crosses fighting in Nicaragua in the early 1930s and earned two more Navy Crosses at Guadalcanal and New Britain during World War II.

Along the way Puller is said to have commented, “All right, they (the enemy) are on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front us, they’re behind us. They can’t get away this time.”
Another famous quip: “Take me to the brig. I want to see the real Marines.”

Quarters 1 also has served as a residence for Marine general officers since the closure of the Marine barracks in 1994. It’s now the official residence of the commander of Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

Signage detail in front of the "Chesty" Puller House located at 201 Russell Ave. in Pearl Harbor.
“I just think the whole architecture and the original features that are in this home that are so unique and different are what I really love about the house, and also the history,” Cathe Robling said. “It’s wonderful to be a part of that history, I think, especially now that this year (the house) is turning 100 years old.”

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Hawaii Community Development Authority needs to preserve historic sites as development of Kakaako proceeds

By Kiersten Faulkner
Star Advertiser, September 22, 2013

Over the past few months, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) has given development approval for at least nine new high-rises in the Kakaako district, and more are undoubtedly on the way.

The face of the district is changing rapidly, growing denser with housing units mixing with retail, industrial, office and services.

Despite established zoning regulations, most of the developments seek to maximize height, minimize setbacks, and squeeze as much parking and as little landscaping as can be approved.
Notable exceptions are Kamehameha Schools' SALT project, Howard Hughes Corp.'s remodel of the IBM Building, and HCDA's own commitment to utilize the Royal Brewery.

Otherwise, small-scale buildings and open spaces are being sacrificed to this sky city of the future.

Livable cities around the world found that preserving human scale and historic value provide for a rich urban environment. The vibrant mix resulting from retaining historic districts and structures while adding contemporary, well-designed buildings is evident in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

The downside of poorly planned development was demonstrated by the "urban renewal" movement of the 1960s, when turn-of-the-century buildings were demolished and replaced by towering skyscrapers and sterile parking lots.

This discredited approach to urban planning is once again evident in the piecemeal approvals happening throughout Kakaako. As the state agency responsible for the district, HCDA has the opportunity to put a stop to this short-sighted way of doing business.

We envision a vibrant and renewed Kakaako in which historic buildings are preserved, rehabilitated and used for a variety of community services.

We envision a future in which there is a livable mix of buildings of different scales in a walkable community, and where residents of all income levels have access to well-built structures and lively gathering spaces punctuating the neighborhood.

We would like to see a community that is still recognizable as Kakaako.

This vision supports a district that is economically robust, environmentally sustainable, and affordable to working families.

It sees historic properties as an amenity for those families and to all who live, work, play, worship, learn and shop in the area.

To achieve this vision, HCDA must take action:

» To reject over-reaching development proposals that would destroy or diminish historically-significant properties.

» Require urban design principles for appropriate streetscapes, scale and setbacks.

» Ensure that every new development provides the best possible design solution for each and every parcel.

The possibilities for Kakaako will be tested as HCDA reviews the proposal for redeveloping the historic News Building. The 1929-era News Building is an outstanding example of the Beaux-Art Revival style, the work of master architects Emory & Webb.

A pending proposal would demolish a sizable part of the historic structure for a 10-story parking structure, to join the 11-story garage being built at the back of the lot, and two 400-foot tall towers.

The proposed lowest-common denominator design for the News Building underscores all the fears of an urban jungle in which proven best practices are abandoned.

There are alternatives that can preserve the building and maintain a human scale for the neighborhood and still allow for sensible development and affordability for working families.
Cities around the world have integrated smart housing solutions with good urban design, including preserving the past while providing for affordable and mixed-income housing. Honolulu should do the same.

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