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Honokaa Public Library nominated to National Register of Historic Places

KAILUA-KONA — The Honokaa Public Library is one of two Hamakua properties nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service is considering adding the Honokaa Public Library and Awong Brothers Store properties on Mamane Street to the register, according to the U.S. Federal Register published Thursday. The sites are among about a dozen nominated across the nation.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of United States historic buildings, districts, sites, structures, and objects worthy of preservation. It was established as part of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is overseen by the National Park Service.

The single-story, Hawaiian plantation-style Honokaa Public Library was constructed in 1937 on the makai side of Mamane Street, across from Honokaa High School, according to the registration form for the site. It is the third of a nine-building complex on the state-owned land, five of which are more than 50 years old.

“The Honokaa Public Library remains very much intact, with the addition of the ADA ramp being the only alteration to its exterior. On the interior, the building also maintains a very high degree of integrity. The historic library space and its architectural elements remain, and the only changes are the air condition of the building, the use of fluorescent lights, and the installation of ADA bathrooms, none of which intrude upon the historic character.”

Prior to site taking residence at its current home built in 1937 at 45-3380 Mamane St., the library was located the Sakata Building and Honokaa Union Church, according to the form. Its significance is associated with historic trends directly related to the commercial development of Honokaa Town and increased enrollment at Honokaa School.

“The library facilitated the desires of many second-generation Hamakua residents intent on receiving scholarly recognition and in preparing themselves for employment in the professional classes through education,” the form reads.

The Awong Brothers Store at 45-3600 Mamane St. is the current site of North Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union. The single-story wooden structure was constructed in the 1870s on the makai side of the town’s main road.

For nearly a century, it housed general mercantile goods stores, including the W.H. Holmes from the early 1880s until the early 1920s when it became Lawson’s Department Store. Several years later, Alfred and Henry Holmes took control of the location with the family operating the Awong Brothers Store until 1968 when it was sold to the Honokaa Community Federal Credit Union.

A “very sensitive” renovation was completed in 1979.

The Awong Brothers Store is one of few buildings from the 19th century that remain standing in Hawaii, with even fewer 19th century commercial building constructed from wood.

On Hawaii Island, likely the only commercial building still standing that is constructed from wood is the Wo On Store in North Kohala, constructed around 1890.

“As such, the Awong Brothers Store building stands as a rare and good example of a late 19th century wood commercial building, a form which once graced the streets of Hawaii’s rural and plantation communities,” the form reads.

The service is seeking comment from the public on the significance of both properties through Jan. 10.

Comments should be sent to the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1849 C St. NW, MS 7228, Washington, DC 20240. They can also be submitted online at by searching for docket “2019-27742.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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