This 1927-vintage stucco mansion could become the new site of the Korean Cultural Center of Hawaii.

Korean group
moves to build
bridge to history
in Nuuanu

Cultural activities would
find a home in Canavarro
Castle if permits win approval

By Rosemarie Bernardo

A group of 102 Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu nearly 100 years ago on Jan. 13, 1903, on the SS Gaelic.

They began working as laborers at the Waialua Plantation a month later and were paid a wage of 69 cents for a 10-hour work day.

Their history in Hawaii may go on display at a historic Nuuanu residence if a nonprofit organization gets permission to transform the Canavarro Castle at 2756 Rooke Ave. into a Korean Cultural Center.

Future generations will learn about their ancestors, the country's independence and the heritage of Koreans who migrated to Hawaii nearly a century ago, said Kea Sung Chung of the Korean Cultural Center of Hawaii.

The center will preserve the cultural values and traditions of Koreans who made sacrifices "so we can have a good life in Hawaii with pride," said Chung, owner and founder of KBFD, a Hawaii independent television station.

The Canavarro Castle was built in 1927 for the son of the first Portuguese consul general to Hawaii. In 1980, the 75-year-old structure was placed on the state and national registers of historic places.

Members of the Kook Min Hur Korean Community Association acquired the property in 1947. However, the building deteriorated due to neglect.

This year, the Korean Cultural Center of Hawaii purchased the property from the association. Repairs to the structure and its surrounding area include electrical upgrading, plumbing repairs, repainting, tree-trimming, installation of security lights and repavement of the driveway.

Members plan to use the historic site as a meeting place for the Korean community and as a museum to preserve the Korean independence history. The nonprofit organization also plans to provide scholarships for Korean students and use the place to house international students attending educational programs held at the University of Hawaii.

Earlier this year, residents and members of the Liliha/Alewa/Puunui/Kamehameha Heights Neighborhood Board expressed their concerns about traffic. Residents were also worried whether large tour buses would regularly bring visitors to the center, said planning consultant Donald Clegg.

"They were concerned that it would be turned into a tourist attraction," Clegg said.

To satisfy residents, events at the center will be restricted to about five or six a year with a limit of 100 people per event. Also, small vans are expected to be used to transport visitors to the center during celebrations. The duration of activities held at the center will also be limited. Chung said residents were also pleased with the repairs made to the structure.

The structure is described as a 7,515-square-foot two-story Mediterranean-style stucco residence. A caretaker will live on the property to maintain the upkeep of the center.

According to Loretta Chee, acting director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting, an environmental assessment is being reviewed by agencies and organizations such as the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Liliha/Alewa/Puunui/Kamehameha Heights Neighborhood Board and the Historic Preservation Committee.

E-mail to City Desk


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