Last Friday we delivered 1,161 letters to the City of Honolulu from concerned supporters of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial from around the world. The letters were submitted ahead of the City’s deadline for public input on an EIS Preparation Notice which outlines its proposed plan to demolish the iconic site.
When the comment period began, we were initially disappointed that the City would not provide an email address or online form which could have sparked much more public input. Instead, the City had required that all comments be printed and submitted via mail to two independent addresses.
With your help we rose to the challenge. We hosted a website where our supporters could comment online. Last Friday, in collaboration with the Friends of the Natatorium we consolidated, printed, mailed (to two addresses), and hand delivered the enormous package.
We made statement. The letters overwhelmingly spoke of concern for demolition and the need for the City to study a feasible preservation option in the forthcoming EIS process.
One of the major highlights of the submission was a letter to the Mayor from the congressionally-chartered World War I Centennial Commission. Vice Chairman Edwin L. Fountain wrote that the Natatorium ranks among the most significant” of World War I memorials in the nation. It continued,
“in no instance that we know of has a state or US territory significantly altered, let alone demolished, its official World War I Memorial. To do so would be widely regarded as a gross disservice to the memory of the people for whom the memorial was erected…”
The Commission sent an identical letter to Governor Abercrombie.
The National Executive Committee of the American Legion weighed in as well. We submitted aresolution it passed in May supporting preservation efforts “to honor those servicemembers lost and injured during World War I.”
Most importantly, our supporters weighed in from all corners of the country. We expect that many of the touching personal notes to the City staff will be influential in convincing the decision-makers why the Natatorium should be preserved:
“My husband and I personally visited this location several years ago and found it to be a very moving and thoughtful place, and we hoped that it would be renovated, not destroyed to create another beach.”
- Martha Singleton and Walt Walkington Miami, FL
My Aunt Ethel Hobbes was a Nurse in WWI. She died while taking care of troops who had contracted the Asiatic Flu. She was only 20 years old. Please save this memorial in Honolulu. History should never be forgotten. The sacrifice of our WWI service personnel is part of the fabric of what makes us Americans.
- Jane Varcoe, Waymart, PA
At the 100th anniversary of the "war to end wars," we need more, not less, reflection on the use of violence in human affairs.
- John Breihan Baltimore, MD
As both a teacher and historian, I'm hard pressed to explain how important these monuments are in helping young people to learn about, understand and appreciate their past.
- Jim Shucart, Kirkwood, MO
My husband and I are fairly regular vacationers in Honolulu. We love, love, love, this piece of the beach, the zoo, the park, the New Otani, the overviews and particularly our strolls along the waterfront at the Natatorium. My initial reaction is, "have you lost your collective minds?"…Honolulu is ground zero for water sports and surf capital of the world. You really should move this facility forward in kind with that global image of your town.
- Amy Gilreath, Boulder city, NV
I want my children to be able to come back to Hawaii and see this awesome historic site. Please save it!!!!
- Ann Wilson, Scott AFB, IL
As an architect and preservationist, but mainly as the grandson of man who was a prisoner of war during WWI I am that very disappointed that demolishing this memorial would even be considered.
- James Golden, AIA Pinellas Park, FL
As a kid growing up on Oahu in the 60s and 70s, we would spend countless hours swimming in and clambering around the memorial
- Jonny Pray Venice, CA
My family grew up using the Natatorium. It is inextricably woven into the history of Oahu. No: an arch does not equal a natatorium. An arch does not provide residents with what the natatorium did. We used it, a lot, because some of us were less confident out in the open water. It is unique, has a history, and efforts should be made to work towards preserving and refitting it.
- Margaret Mori, Campbell, CA
Once again, thank you! And please stay in touch as our efforts continue to save this important part of our national heritage.