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Renovation project restores the luster to Hawaiʻi Hall

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Apr 4, 2003

The oldest permanent building on the UH Manoa campus — Hawaiʻi Hall — has reopened after a two-year, $15 million restoration. Newly reconstructed office spaces are once again home to the Manoa chancellor, deans of the colleges of Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities, and Arts & Sciences Student Academic Services.

"Hawaiʻi Hall is very much a focal point for the Manoa campus," said Chancellor Peter Englert. "I felt that it was important that we move into this historic building at the center of the campus — closer to students and closer to where our teaching takes place."

The cornerstone for Hawaiʻi Hall was laid in early 1912, and the building opened for the fall semester that year as the classroom-library-administration building for 128 students and 23 faculty. Even before the official opening of the building, commencement exercises for the four students in the institution‘s first graduating class were held on the steps of Hawaiʻi Hall in June, 1912.

The university — established in 1907 — was originally known as the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and was housed for its first five years in a structure on Young Street near Thomas Square. The new Manoa campus building was known as Main Hall and was renamed Hawaiʻi Hall when the college became the University of Hawaiʻi in 1920 and additional structures were built on the Manoa campus.

Since Hawaiʻi Hall is an historic building, the appearance of the exterior has been preserved to conform as nearly as possible to the original design in keeping with guidelines of the State Historic Sites Commission. The building is now fully air conditioned and includes appropriate wiring and conduits for today‘s technology. An addition has been constructed on the mauka end of the building to include a ground-level entryway and elevator to make it fully accessible.

Invited guests and alumni from the classes of 1943, 1953 and 1963 (60th, 50th and 40th reunion classes, respectively) will rededicate Hawaiʻi Hall at ceremonies on Saturday morning, April 5. An all-campus open house will be scheduled later in April.

The brief ceremonial event will also include the first distribution of a new commemorative booklet detailing the history of Hawaiʻi Hall with historic photos and a narrative text by emeriti UH professors Robert M. Kamins and Robert E. Potter. Kamins and Potter collaborated on a larger book — Malamalama: A history of the University of Hawaiʻi — published a few years ago by the University of Hawaiʻi Press.