Thursday, March 4, 2010


90% of Ft. Kamehameha would be “disposed of” under the Air Force's preferred alternative
In late February 2010, the 15th Air Wing’s environmental officers presented its proposal to demolish or remove 31 historic buildings from Fort Kamehameha on Hickam Air Force Base, which is a National Register of Historic Places-eligible historic district, effectively destroying it.

Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF) named Ft. Kamehameha as one of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawai‘i in 2008 and is a consulting party in the review of the effect to the district and the efforts to avoid its destruction.

Built in 1916, Fort Kamehameha was originally an Army Coastal Artillery Post. After World War II, however, coastal artillery became obsolete, and most of the non-residential buildings were demolished. The remaining 33 homes stand as great examples of the Bungalow/Arts and Crafts style of the era. The overall composition of the district includes several character-defining elements and contributing features, including not only the homes, but also the mature trees, the roads, the site plan and open space, as well as the spatial relationship to the chapel, batteries and other facilities, which could never be replicated elsewhere.

The Air Force states that it does not have a mission need for the district, which is also in the flight path for the runways at Hickam and Honolulu International Airport. The Air Force says that safety and noise concerns from the aviation activity makes both housing and other uses impossible in the area. Air Force also cites the costs of continuing maintenance and management of the structures as the rationale for the proposed action.

However, based on the cost estimates provided by the Air Force in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the cost of the AF preferred alternative is significantly higher than the option supported by Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

Both alternatives provide for the adaptive reuse of the three houses that are located outside of the Accident Potential Zone and the retention of the bandstand, batteries and flagpole. The chapel would be demolished. HHF supports preservation-in-place through a “mothball” procedure for the remaining 30 houses, at a cost of about $70,000 plus annual maintenance. By contrast, the Air Force supports either moving the structures (at a cost of over $2,000,000) or demolishing them (at a cost of about $212,000), which it euphemistically calls “disposal.” Under all alternatives, Air Force would continue to maintain the site at a level to be determined. The Air Force did not include all hard or soft costs in its estimates, including any hazardous material abatement, site restoration, landfill disposal costs or mitigation measures, so actual costs of its alternatives are likely to be higher.

While the “mothball” option is not the first choice for best preservation practice, it has the advantage of preserving the district, rather than affirmatively destroying it in the assumption that no other use or funding will ever be available in the future. It keeps both the structures and the district intact, which allows for responsible stewardship when circumstances change.

For example, in a parallel situation, the Chief Petty Officers Bungalows on Battleship Row, Ford Island, were also neglected for many years by the Navy, which cited the lack of maintenance funding and mission need, prompting the listing of that historic neighborhood on the 2005 list of Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawai‘i. In 2008, then-President George W. Bush included the bungalows in the designation of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Under the stewardship of the National Park Service, the six cottages have been given emergency stabilization measures and a preservation plan for their adaptive reuse is underway. Had the bungalows been properly “mothballed” in the interim, the costs of rehabilitation would be less. However, even with the minimal level of care given to them, the bungalows will still be brought back to use and remain a testament to the history of Ford Island and the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Similarly, future uses and solutions may yet be found for Ft. Kamehameha. However, if the Air Force proceeds with its ill-conceived and costly plan to “dispose” of the district, it will be lost forever. Please join Historic Hawai‘i Foundation in stopping this outrageous assault on one of the most intact and special neighborhoods on O‘ahu.

To join Historic Hawai‘i Foundation’s action list to receive updates on opportunities to comment or get involved, please sign up for our e-news alerts on Fort Kamehemameha.

Written comments on the Air Force’s proposals for Ft. Kamehameha may also be sent to:

Mr. Ronnie Lanier
Chief, Environmental Flight
Department of the Air Force
75 H Street, Building 1203
Hickam AFB, HI 96853-5233

Read Fort Kamehameha's "Most Endangered" Article..
Read more background on Fort Kamehameha's fate..
E-Mail Historic Hawaii Foundation with questions..