BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
The small building on the waterfront at Kewalo Basin which in recent years was used as a classroom for the Kewalo Keiki Fishing Conservancy might be demolished Monday.
Kewalo site nears leveling
A group seeks to preserve an old building and ice chute that are to be torn down
The razing of Kewalo Basin's waterfront property has left few reminders of Hawaii's maritime heritage, and the only historic structure left, a cleverly designed contraption that provided ice for the sampan-based fishing fleet, could face demolition on Monday.
A group of history enthusiasts and educators, however, are working to preserve the metal chute and adjacent building.
"We were given until Aug. 21 by the (Hawaii Community Development Authority) to dismantle and move the building at our own expense, but our engineer and architect says that would destroy it," said Michelle Matson of the newly formed Save Our Kewalo Basin. Moving the building would also take it away from its historic context, she said. "What's the point of that?"
The small building, used for dock operations, and the ice chute were a familiar rendezvous at the Kewalo Cove for Hawaii's sampan fishermen. Of the hundreds of high-prowed sampans that once worked Hawaii's waters with pole and line, only one remains, the Kula Kai, moored nearby and still used for fishing.
"It was a busy little cove, and fishing families have fond memories of the site," said Matson.
The building has been used in recent years as a classroom for the Kewalo Keiki Fishing Conservancy, an educational nonprofit that focuses on marine conservation.
"It's a culturally significant place for the fishing community, and what they call adaptive reuse of the building would sure help educate kids," said Scott Furushima of the conservancy.
Save Our Kewalo Basin has developed a plan for the site that calls for continuation of the conservancy classes, stabilization and restoration of the building and ice chute, and a small museum dedicated to preserving Hawaii's fishing heritage.
"We've managed to keep HCDA from leveling the site for five months now, but time is running out," said Matson. "Even though the state Historic Preservation Division has determined the structures are culturally significant, they defer to HCDA.
"The ironic thing is that the state has no plans for the site. They intend to level it and then gather input from the community on what to do with the area. They want a clean slate to wipe out the past."
State officials were not available yesterday to respond.
Save Our Kewalo Basin members plan to air their concerns at a news conference Monday.