Heritage at home


POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009

We all know—or think we know—what a national park is. It's an area designated by the federal government as special in some way, and thus should be preserved. The same goes for city parks and historic districts.

But what's a National Heritage Area? And can one be created in, say, historic Liliha?

It turns out that for the last decade or so, some Liliha citizens have quietly been revitalizing the Liliha-Nuuanu area through promotion and preservation. They've gone public in a big way with Senate Bill 359, making the Honolulu neighborhood the first proposed National Heritage Area in Hawaii.

According to the National Park Service, stewards of the National Heritage Areas, such sites “;expand on traditional approaches to resource stewardship by supporting large-scale, community-centered initiatives that connect local citizens to the preservation and planning process.”;

State Rep. Corinne Ching (R, Nuuanu-Liliha) is one of the spark plugs who helped draft the bill.

“;It's just the beginning of promoting Liliha as the jewel of the state,”; said Ching. An NHA would “;support the ahupuaa of Nuuanu, which includes all of Liliha and Kapalama, and benefit the residents, businesses and museums, as well as help protect the historic sites which abound in this area.”;

The annual “;I Love Liliha”; Town Festival happening tomorrow is a reminder of how special this neighborhood is to the Honolulu community. The Royal Hawaiian Band will perform starting at 10:15 a.m., and Gov. Linda Lingle will give a brief speech at noon.





        Fundraiser for the Lanakila Senior Center, including a dog walk and historic tours with a 1938 firetruck

» Where: Prince David Kawananakoa Playground and Kawananakoa Middle School


» When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow


» Cost: Free


» Info: 542-1150




THE NATIONAL Heritage Areas program, said Ching, “;relies on consensus building instead of government-controlled compulsion. Partnerships create efficiencies, with tangible and intangible benefits grounded in residents' community pride in history and tradition. It's a collaborative approach that doesn't compromise local control.”;

Federal money? “;A little bit,”; admits Ching. “;But most of its power is in its ability to leverage and attract local state and private investment and appreciation/awareness to the area.”;

Other supporters include the Hawaii Capital Cultural Coalition—a consortium of museums and cultural organizations and volunteers—plus businesses such as Finance Factors, CVS Longs and Liliha Bakery in the community, the Good Shepherd Lutheran church and private citizens like architects such as Lorraine Minatoishi Palumbo and Anna Wynn, Liliha resident Leilani Ng, photographer Paul Chesley and writer Keith Lorenz.

In March nine other areas—including Alaska's Kenai area—received NHA status, now making nearly 50 NHAs in 32 states. Hawaii has not yet made the cut. The bill is currently stalled, said Ching.

“;The support Sen. Inouye had for the legislation and Hawaii being the president's birthplace should've helped us overcome that this year,”; she said. “;Hopefully, this legislation will still pass at some point in the future,”; said Ching, explaining that much of the cultural zoning in the United States seems to reside within driving distance of Washington, D.C.

WHY DOES the designation matter?




National Heritage Areas

I Love Liliha




“;I can't say enough about the importance of history and heritage to neighborhoods such as mine,”; said Ching. “;It raises self-esteem, crucial to young people getting involved in their community in positive ways. It strengthens the community through pride and education, plus appreciation of the past and those elders who helped provide the present.

“;On the economic level, it's crucial to keeping Hawaii a unique place with more stories to tell for the visitor, keeping us competitive in hard times. This is us! What made us, who we are. What sets us apart, makes us special and of interest to the outside world. We are a unique blend.

“;Through history we learn what made us great, the challenges, failures and victories. History is the secret of all great cultures that survive.”;


Cultures blend in community

Liliha, home of the famous healing natural spring Kunawai pond off Liliha Street, is named for Chiefess Kuini Liliha, governess of Oahu.

The story of just about every ethnic group in the islands involves Nuuanu-Liliha, selected as Oahu's multiethnic corridor by the Historic Hawai'i Foundation.

“;It tells the story of planters, missionaries, immigrants, businessmen and pre-statehood Hawaii,”; said area representative Corinne Ching, “;There are mansions such as the Philippine Consulate and Girl Scouts Hale and the Liliha Shingon Mission Temple and Korean Christian Church, not to mention Liliha Bakery and the first ever L&L on Liliha Street—which is, by the way, the birthplace of saimin.”;

With its proximity to Chinatown, the royal landscaping of Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, the Royal Mausoleum (created by Liliha's father, Hoopili), the old Chun Hoon Market (formerly the Chun Afong mansion and site of the state's oldest lychee tree), Kuakini Medical (the first Japanese hospital supported by the emperor of Japan), plus four consulates, Liliha is diverse and multicultural.

And let's not forget that Alexander Cartwright, the father of baseball, is buried in Oahu Cemetery, along with many other famous people.