• Congressional Legislation Brings Much Needed Attention to Waikiki Natatorium and World War I Memorials Across America

    November 9, 2017

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaking in front of the Waikiki Natatorium

    photo by: Courtesy of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) speaking at the Waikiki Natatorium in 2015.

    Today, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Honoring World War I Memorials Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish a grant program for rehabilitating memorials dedicated to the millions of Americans who served in World War I. The Department of Veterans Affairs would distribute the grants to assist in the restoration of World War I memorials owned or managed by nonprofit organizations and state and local governments.

    The National Trust endorses this legislation to give World War I memorials the protection they deserve and raise awareness of their important role in ensuring that the sacrifices of those who served in the war are honored and not forgotten.

    After the war, communities across our nation constructed unique “living” memorials with a utilitarian function, often connected to local culture and landscapes. They included auditoriums, gymnasiums, parks, bridges, and other cherished community resources. In Hawaii, as prime example, the Territorial Legislature constructed the only memorial in the country in the form of a saltwater swimming pool—the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. Named a National Treasure in 2014, the Natatorium remains the most recognizable representation of the participation of Hawaii in World War I and testament to the islands’ swimming traditions.

    Today, the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and many other war memorials are closed to the public, or suffer from disrepair. The deterioration of these significant places associated with our military history reflects poorly on our nation. As America reflects on the centennial of the war, join us in urging members of Congress to rise to the occasion and support the Honoring World War I Memorials Act of 2017.

    Read the National Trust’s official statement here.

  • Support a New Concept for the Waikiki Natatorium’s Future!

    November 10, 2016

    “The commitment to restoring the authentic monument is consistent with the best of American traditions: we do not discard our national treasures.”

    – Senator Daniel Akaka, Referring to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

    The National Trust is unveiling a concept proposal for the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium that will honor its unique legacy as a “living” war memorial. Most significantly, the design suggests opening the seawall to users to recreate in clean ocean water. The proposal addresses longstanding concerns with the aged facility, including: water quality; public safety; environmental protection; and cost for building and operations.

    The concept was developed by two of the most respected engineers in Hawaii, Dr. Hans Krock, Emeritus Professor of Ocean and Resources Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Dr. Alfred Yee, foremost authority in the design of concrete structures and consulting engineer for Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial.

    This Concept Design is strongly supported by Friends of the Natatorium and the Historic Hawai'i Foundation, who are partnering with the National Trust in efforts to convince the City and County of Honolulu that preservation is feasible at a cost far less than they assumed. We are seeking public review and input to better refine the design. Key graphics are captured in the slideshow below, and the full design of the proposal is available for download.


    • CLEAN. A combination of wave energy, allowed into the swim area through chevrons that comprise the seawall, and circulation through openings in the side walls nearest to the bleacher structure would fully exchange the Natatorium with ocean water at least six times per day.
    • CLEAR. To avoid murkiness in the water, silt would be dredged from the swim basin and replaced with an inert material, such as gravel, that could then be contoured to allow for a shallow and deep end, and covered with precast concrete panels. The use of silicone dioxide sand on top of the panels would be a safe and long-lasting solution.
    • SIMPLE. The relative simplicity of this design—essentially a sheltered ocean environment—is its major advantage. The Natatorium would be as safe to swim in as the adjacent ocean and would not require the addition of special pumps or drainage infrastructure and related maintenance.

    Design Concept

    Now, the National Trust is urging the City and County of Honolulu to study Dr. Krock and Dr. Yee’s design in-depth, as part of its environmental impact statement, and take the vital steps needed in preserving the Natatorium’s important role—including commission of an engineering model required to move forward in evaluating the concept’s low-cost potential.

    Please complete the form below to share your comments on the proposed concept. Thank you for helping us shape the future of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, a true National Treasure!

    Your Comments

  • Google Doodle Celebrates Duke Kahanamoku on his 125th Birthday

    August 24, 2015

    Today Google released a Google Doodle featuring Hawaii’s most famous waterman, Duke Kahanamoku, and his iconic 16-foot, 114 pound wooden surfboard.

    Google Doodle celebrating Duke Kahanamoku's 125th birthday

    Duke, who would have turned 125 years old today, was a legendary competitive swimmer and a key figure in the history the Natatorium. In 1911 he broke the world record for the 100 meter freestyle by 4 ½ seconds in Honolulu Harbor. He would go on to win five gold medals in swimming for the U.S. in the next two decades (despite the cancellation of the 1916 Games during World War I). Many believe that Duke’s accomplishments were the inspiration to build the Natatorium as the Territory of Hawaii’s official War Memorial.

    Duke was such a legend following his Olympic successes that he was invited take the inaugural lap in the Natatorium. In fact, the opening ceremonies were timed to happen on the occasion of Duke’s 37th birthday, August 24, 1927. The crowd roared as Hawaii’s “Ambassador of Aloha” plunged into the pool before a packed house. “I will never forget it,” he later exclaimed, “the intense interest shown by everybody, the color, that wonderful Waikiki pool. I had to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if it were not all a dream.”

    Here is a video of Duke winning the 100-meter freestyle at the Antwerp 1920 Olympic Games, his second gold medal in the event. Also check out some vintage footage of Duke surfing at Waikiki Beach.

  • The Revival of Urban Baths – A Global Perspective

    March 27, 2015

    As the debate continues about how the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium can be re-purposed to meet modern standards for ocean swimming, let’s do some comparison shopping.

    Australia’s world-famous rock pools are the best examples on the market. The country has more than 100 public seawater pools on its rocky coastlines, most in and around Sydney in New South Wales. Dr. Marie-Louise McDermott has published several articles on the role of the still-operable baths in Australia’s history. Her research led her to conclude that they are “places of refuge, therapeutic and restorative environments, adventure playgrounds, convivial public spaces, visually appealing cultural landscapes, brands, icons and symbols.” To see Ms. McDermett’s photographs you can visit her flickr photo stream here.

    Next let’s turn to Copenhagen harbor in Denmark. It would have been unthinkable to swim alongside the former industrial lands along the City’s shoreline in years past. But the Municipality of Copenhagen has taken proactive steps to make this water safe for swimming. In the past 15 years it has developed four harbor baths, which have become hugely popular among locals and tourists. Water quality is carefully monitored so visitors can be assured that they are not at risk from harmful bacteria. See photos of the most well known of the baths at Islands Brygge here.

    The Copenhagen model has proven that pools can co-exist in modern environments where pollution is an issue. Taking it a step further, New York City is now working in close collaboration with a group called +POOL to create a water-filtering floating pool in the Hudson River. According to the +POOL website, the 200’ x 200’ pool would operate “like a giant strainer dropped into the river,” to become an iconic piece of public infrastructure while maintaining high water quality inside the pool.

    Finally, we turn to the chilly waters of the St. Lawrence in Montreal, Canada. You might think the cooler climate would deter people away from swimming. Au contraire. Just last week Montreal’s Mayor Dennis Corderre announced a plan to open up the Old Port to build a harbor bath and create a swimmable shoreline in the St. Lawrence River and a unique urban amenity.

    The common denominator in these examples is that there is a strong demand to create swimming opportunities in even the most challenging, post-industrial urban environments. Cities have used and are planning to use state-of-the art technology to meet these demands, building iconic aquatic facilities while ensuring the protection of public health and safety. In its decision-making process for the future of the Natatorium, the City of Honolulu has an excellent opportunity to learn from these examples to re-purpose its icon on Waikiki beach.

  • Massive Outpouring of Support for the Natatorium

    August 26, 2014

    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.

All 5 updates

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