You are simply the greatest. We thank you for your latest outpouring of support for preserving, repairing and reopening the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
On Friday, the Friends of the Natatorium and the National Trust for Historic Preservation delivered comments from an amazing 1,161 people and organizations to the Honolulu Department of Design and Construction.
These comments – and the as-yet uncounted number that so many of you mailed directly to the city – will help shape the environmental impact study now getting under way.
As you know, the city proposes to demolish the Natatorium and replace it with an artificial beach. The city has claimed that the only alternative, the only way it could actually save Hawaii’s official World War I memorial, is a prohibitively expensive closed-pool design.
What You Asked For
We disagree. And so did you. You told the city in your comments that an improved, re-engineered open-flow design would conform to state Health Department regulations, would keep swimmers safe and would be far more affordable. You asked the city to ensure that its upcoming EIS remains legally sufficient by including a fair and thorough study of an open-flow alternative.
That would give us a fighting chance to get the Natatorium open for swimming again. It would enable us to honor our obligation to 10,000 World War I volunteers from Hawaii memorialized by the Natatorium.
What You Said About the Natatorium
So many of you had so many wonderful things to say in your comments. Here are a few examples:“My family grew up using the Natatorium. It is inextricably woven into the history of Oahu. … We used it, a lot, because some of us were less confident out in the open water. It is unique, [it] has a history, and efforts should be made to work towards preserving and refitting it.” — Margaret Mori, Campbell, California
“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, California
“I want my children to be able to come back to Hawaii and see this awesome historic site. Please save it!” — Ann Wilson, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
“I grew up in Honolulu seeing the Natatorium every day and abhor the thought of yet another historic icon falling victim to so-called ‘progress.’” — Rosemary Dunn, Anchorage, Alaska
“[We] 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
“My aunt Ethel Hobbes was a nurse in World War I. 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 World War I service personnel is part of the fabric of what makes us Americans.” — Jane Varcoe, Waymart, Pennsylvania
“As an architect and preservationist, but mainly as the grandson of man who was a prisoner of war during World War I, I am that very disappointed that demolishing this memorial would even be considered.” — James Golden, AIA, Pinellas Park, Florida
“It is beyond distressing to learn that a beautiful monument to our World War I veterans is to be destroyed. What is the justification for destroying an architectural treasure so rich in significance?” — Andrea Young, Hingham, Massachusetts
“Surely, there are enough beaches around that you shouldn’t have to demolish a national treasure. Please, look again at your options. Don’t let the promises of those who don’t care about history override your thinking. New isn’t always best.” — Trish Doornbosch, Woodstock, Illinois
“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, Nevada
“The demolition of this iconic landmark seems totally shortsighted and culturally thoughtless. There is nothing that you could build in its place that would be as lovely and as meaningful.” — Michael Beatty, New York
“Find a way to save this breath-taking, life-remembering and life-enhancing memorial.” — K Baker, Linthicum, Maryland
“We have soldiers fighting all over the world today. Passing through the airport yesterday, I saw a sign for a charity called ‘Operation Never Forget.’ Will we put a time limit on our remembrance of them, too, until it becomes time to build an artificial beach?” — Shannon Monaghan, Wellesley, Massachusetts
If you want to know more about the comments officially submitted to the city today, please read our news release.
Next up? Now the city and its consultants get down to the job of doing the study and putting together a draft environmental impact statement. we expect them to take your comments and suggestions into account in their work. We’ll be watching, and we hope you will be too.
When it’s time to take action again, we will let you know.
Mahalo, and aloha.