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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Old Hawai'i Hall new once again

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

From its gleaming new maple floors with cherry and charcoal tones, past the swirling decorative, turn-of-the-century moldings, to its lofty pillars and shining copper rain gutters, Hawai'i Hall at the University of Hawai'i has been reborn.

Hawai'i Hall, the first major building on the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus, has been renovated and restored at a cost of $15 million.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The campus' first major building — dating from 1912 — has been renovated and rebuilt, with architects and contractors taking it down to the shell and re-creating one piece at a time at a cost of about $15 million over a two-year span. It was the last project completed under the Department of Accounting and General Services before the university gained autonomy over construction projects.

UH administrators, including chancellor Peter Englert and his staff, have begun moving in, and the building will be rededicated next week with a campus-wide open house scheduled for April 24.

"As the first major building on campus, every effort was made to preserve its historic ornamental detail," said Stan Yasumoto of Architects Hawai'i, principal in charge of the project.

"Essentially what was saved was the exterior skin and the stairways," he said. "Everything else was gutted. It was not in good condition. We took out the floor slab on the bottom because there were below-surface leakage problems. The floors and the roof all came out."

In putting it back together, contractors dropped the bottom floor a foot to create space between floors for air-conditioning ducts and conduits for electrical and other wiring. "We had to squeeze into the ceilings all the technical components," Yasumoto said. "Because we saved the exterior, the floor levels were predetermined."

When the structure — at first called Main Hall — was erected, the site was still part of a dairy farm, and during the original dedication "cows wandered about," says historian Leanne Sugai. The building housed the bulk of university operations, including the administration, library, animal husbandry laboratory, classrooms, art studio and athletic locker room.

Hawai'i Hall's history also includes a death that occurred on the steps in 1923 and brought an end to the early tradition of hazing between the freshman and sophomore classes.

According to early newspaper accounts, as the freshmen attempted to force entry through the front door of Hawai'i Hall that year — after a sophomore "decree" denied them entry — a free-for-all ensued and freshman George Paul was trampled in the melee. His death resulted in a university-wide ban on all hazing that has held to this day.

Originally, Hawai'i Hall cost $65,700 to build and $10,000 or so to furnish, and the Legislature appropriated $75,000 for the purpose. Even at that, with the "financial condition" of the Territory rocky at the time, Sugai said, the appropriation was far below early estimates that the building would cost $200,000.

Today, along with the Manoa chancellor's staff, the building will house academic advising for the College of Arts and Sciences, vice chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, vice chancellor for Administration, the dean of the College of Social Sciences and the dean of Arts and Humanities.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.