Statement | November 13, 2018

Statement on the City of Honolulu’s New Preservation Plan for the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium

This week, just days before the centennial of the armistice ending World War I, the city of Honolulu announced a new plan to rehabilitate the War Memorial Natatorium. The plan, detailed in the city’s environmental impact statement, proposes the rehabilitation of the Natatorium in accordance with accepted preservation standards. This is a reversal from the city’s previous plan to demolish the site, which generated widespread concern and prompted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to engage in a nationwide advocacy campaign to save it, including designating it a National Treasure.

The following is a statement by David J. Brown, Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer, on the city’s announcement:

“We applaud Honolulu’s exciting commitment to rehabilitate the War Memorial Natatorium, an icon in the Waikiki community and a National Treasure. As we celebrate the centennial of the close of World War I, this revised approach is a superb way of honoring the veterans who fought and died in that conflict, and for whose memory the Natatorium was originally created to pay tribute. By moving in the direction of preservation and rehabilitation for this gorgeous local landmark, Honolulu is ensuring that the sacrifices of Hawaii citizens are not forgotten in future generations.

“In addition to protecting a treasured historic place, the city’s plan is fiscally prudent, as a new evaluation found that rehabilitation would cost less than demolition. In modifying its plan, the city has shown recognition that the Natatorium is an integral part of Hawaii’s historic and cultural heritage.

“We strongly support this new vision for a revived War Memorial Natatorium and want to commend the city and municipal leadership for rethinking their approach. We stand ready to help put this preservation approach into action in any way we can.”

This new alternative has been vetted with technical experts, including the National Trust, and focuses on protecting its defining features; stadium seating overlooking Waikiki and a 100-meter ocean-fed swim basin, surrounded by perimeter decking. The proposal also allows for a natural flushing of sea water to stay true to the Natatorium's original 1927 underwater design.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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