The Royal Order of Kamehameha I received a building permit to construct an annex at the back of Kamehameha Hall in Keaukaha.
It’s the last such meeting hall for the Royal Order statewide. The hall was reinforced to prevent collapse, and members are raising money to restore and expand it.
David Heaukulani is a member of the order, established by Kamehameha V and revived by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole.
Heaukulani said Kamehameha Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, belongs to the Royal Order. It sits about a mile past Keaukaha General Store.
“Somebody from church said, ‘What are you guys going to do about that place?’” Heaukulani said. “And I said, ‘What place?’”
When he first joined the order, he didn’t know it owned Kamehameha Hall, located at 1162 Kalanianaole Ave.
The building had fallen into disrepair, was left idle for years, had been attacked by termites and, unfortunately, includes lead paint on wobbly walls currently held up with supports. The paint must be removed before any restoration can begin.
Heaukulani said Kamehameha Hall once was the center of island government and a gathering place for weddings, funerals, celebrations and meetings. It served as a community center from 1938-2000.
Today, it’s too dangerous to even enter. But the building permit suggests a positive future.
Members of the Royal Order want to build a new addition, to be called the Kamehameha Annex, and will renovate the existing Kamehameha Hall once that’s complete.
Environmental classes for youth and adults will be organized as soon as the annex is ready. Those classes will position the property to qualify for grants for youth services.
“Our self-sufficiency courses are based on what we are calling the Malama Honua Vision … adapted from the Hokule‘a Malama Honua voyage,” Heaukulani said.
Classes include introduction to hydroponics, aquaponics, backyard gardening, solar power, windmills, water conservation, green waste and recycling.
Two Hokule‘a crew members are mentors, Heaukulani said. An introduction to Polynesian voyaging for fourth-graders will use small model canoe kits from The Makery.
“The long-range plan is to get grants for young adults to build a voyaging canoe to launch out of Hilo,” Heaukulani said.
There also will be classes on making ukuleles and traditional Hawaiian implements, such as paddles.
When Kamehameha Annex is complete, Heaukulani hopes to renovate Kamehameha Hall in stages. He estimates restoring the structure, which sits on land leased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, will cost $760,000. The Royal Order is applying for county, state and federal grants.
“I took it as a calling to rehabilitate it,” Heaukulani said.
“The first money I got was $4,000 from outgoing Puna Councilman Zendo Kern,” Heaukulani said. “I used that right away to throw up support studs.”
Grant requests were denied by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and he never heard back from the Kawananakoa Foundation.
But the mayor’s office and county Councilwoman Susan Lee Loy, who represents Keaukaha, offered support. Kamehameha Annex will be a first step toward full restoration.
“We wanted an open-air structure with a roof,” Heaukulani said. “We really wanted a pili-grass and ohia-log type of structure, but that was a ‘no go’ with the building and fire codes, so we are going to start building a modern pavilion.”
Construction will begin “when the sun breaks out.”
A sold-out Kuhio Ball, a black-tie banquet and gala, honors Prince Kuhio and raises funds to renovate Kamehameha Hall. The event is March 24 in the Sandalwood Room of the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.
An auction that night includes rare, historic memorabilia such as Kingdom of Hawaii coins and stamps.
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I includes men of Hawaiian descent modeling principles of friendship, charity and benevolence while perpetuating ancient culture, customs and Hawaii traditions, thus “uplifting the Hawaiian people.”
Email Jeff Hansel at email@example.com.