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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 27, 2006

Project revives La'ie's 'heart and soul'

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

La'ie's Lanihuli Home, built in 1893, was used as a mission house and a place to stay for visitors to the Mormon temple. It was torn down in 1958 to make room for Church College of Hawai'i.

Hawaii Reserves Inc.

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LA'IE Only memories remain of two sites that were instrumental in the growth of the Mormon faith in this community, but a project detailing the church's chronology in Hawai'i will help others learn about their histories.

La'ie leaders affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will dedicate historical markers for the Lanihuli Home and the Social Hall as part of an ongoing "historical trail" project that traces Mormon history in the Islands. The free event, at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the top of Lanihuli Street, is open to the public.

The project is sponsored by Hawai'i Reserves Inc. and the Mormon Historical Sites Foundation. Additional support came from the Mormon Pacific Historical Society and the La'ie Community Association.

Gladys Pualoa-Ahuna, 76 and the ninth generation of a La'ie family, said the two buildings were an important part of the community's social and religious life. Lanihuli, built in 1893, was used as a mission house and visitors who came to the temple stayed there, Pualoa-Ahuna said. But during World War II, the Hawaiian-Victorian mansion was used as a medical center for the military, she said.

In 1955, when Church College of Hawai'i opened, Lanihuli was used as a dormitory, Pualoa-Ahuna said. Old Army barracks served as temporary buildings until the campus was completed, she said.

The Social Hall, built in 1913, was the center for entertainment, weddings, funerals and even church services after the chapel burned down in 1940, Pualoa-Ahuna said. Every weekend there was a movie, and on Saturday there was a concert with impromptu performances by residents and people from outside the community, she said. After the concert the John Broad Orchestra would play music and everyone would dance, Pualoa-Ahuna said. The kids would be in one corner of the room and the teenagers and adults used the rest of the space, she said.

At exactly 11 p.m. the fun would end and the space was prepared for Sunday services, Pualoa-Ahuna said.

"It was the center of the community all through the war years," she said.

The markers will forever honor two of La'ie's great gathering places, said Eric Beaver, president of Hawai'i Reserves Inc.

"The Lanihuli Home and the Social Hall were part of the heart and soul of the community here from the turn of the century, throughout the war years and into the late 1950s," Beaver said in a press release. "The buildings themselves may be gone, but their legacy lives on in the wonderful memories of our kupuna."

Lanihuli Home was at the top of Lanihuli Street. The home once considered the finest in Windward O'ahu served as headquarters for the Hawai'i Mission until 1919. Mission presidents and their families resided in the great mansion with its octagonal turret, cupola and second-story lanai facing the sea. The house was used as a symbol on the personal stationery of one mission president and became a popular symbol of the church in Hawai'i. Spiritual meetings, as well as church business, were conducted there. The home was razed in 1958 to make room for Church College of Hawai'i.

The new markers are being added to a church historical trail in Hawai'i that includes the LDS Mission School and old Plantation Store in La'ie, as well as the Palawai marker on Lana'i, which is a reminder of the first official gathering place for Latter-day saints in the Pacific.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.