Saturday, July 26, 2014         


 Print   Email   Comment | View 14 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

War memorials crumble as funds dry up

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:36 a.m. HST, May 27, 2013

On the shoreline of Hawaii's most famous beach, a decaying structure attracts little attention from wandering tourists.

A few glance curiously at the crumbling Waikiki Natatorium, a saltwater pool built in 1927 as a memorial to the 10,000 soldiers from Hawaii who served in World War I. But the monument's walls are caked with salt and rust, and passers-by are quickly diverted by the lure of sand and waves.

The faded structure has been closed to the public for decades, the object of seemingly endless debate over whether it should be demolished or restored to its former glory. The latest plan is to replace it with a beach, more practical for the state's lucrative tourism industry — and millions of dollars cheaper, according to state and local officials. They say a full restoration could cost nearly $70 million.

The corroding monument has challenged the community to maneuver a delicate question: How do we honor those who have served when memorials deteriorate and finances are tight?

Similar debates have been playing out across the nation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation waged a 21⁄2-year fight to restore the aging Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., when some people proposed replacing it. Far less disagreement surrounded a decision to update the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco after a powerful earthquake in 1989.

In Greensboro, N.C., residents have been grappling with what to do with the city's own decaying tribute to the soldiers of World War I.

Greensboro World War Memorial Stadium hosted minor league baseball for decades and even served as a location for notable sports films such as "Leatherheads" and "Bull Durham."

Yet despite continued use by kids and college athletes, the structure is falling into disrepair.

The historic pebbled facade is falling off, and some of the bleachers are blocked off because of crumbling concrete, said David Wharton, a Greensboro resident who is fighting as a member of his neighborhood association to restore the structure.

It's been a losing battle. The city rejected two referendums to fund renovations and chose to build a new stadium for minor league baseball instead of fixing up the old one.

As a classics professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Wharton has a soft spot for historic places. But he recognizes there are many other priorities competing for the millions of dollars it would take to restore the stadium.

A city group is exploring different ways to use the space, and preservation advocates hope the monument can be saved even if that means changing the stadium's purpose.

For many residents the structure's architectural and historic significance pales in comparison with more immediate needs.

"The war was a long time ago," Wharton said. "I don't think it's meaningful for most people."

Sometimes communities decide that memorials aren't worth the price.

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Wakefield Memorial Building once stood as a grand structure overlooking a lake in Wakefield, an old mining town. The memorial, built in 1924 to commemorate the sacrifices of World War I soldiers, was expansive, including a banquet hall, meeting room and theater.

By the 1950s the community couldn't afford the upkeep of the building and sold it to a private owner.

Through the years, there were attempts to renovate the structure, but it was deemed too expensive and by 2010 the building was demolished.

John Siira, the city manager, said there are plans to build a new memorial at the site, including a City Hall and library.

But the project is on hold, and Siira said he's not sure when construction will start or when the project will pick up again.

The lot where the building used to stand is now an empty lawn. The snow melted just last week, remnants of a long winter.

 Print   Email   Comment | View 14 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
manakuke wrote:
The ravages of time; often they just forget the sacrifices made.
on May 27,2013 | 03:47AM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
Enough already! Retain the facade, moved mauka by several hundred feet, and remove the pool. It has already been determined by health professionals that due to a change in the tides and wave action over the years, that the pool would not be useable and more importantly be a breeding ground for water borne bacteria.
on May 27,2013 | 04:43AM
Makua wrote:
I agree that trying to retain all of the structure is cost prohibitive. The real question is will the effort and cost to move the facade mauka really be cost effective? Will the facade survive the move or should a new maybe smaller monument in marble be built to last far longer than concrete and stucco.
on May 27,2013 | 05:31AM
allie wrote:
on May 27,2013 | 09:27AM
Allenk wrote:
Maybe a small bronze plaque mounted on a stone edifice is sufficient and more cost effective. It's not that we aren't appreciative of what the veterans of World War I did, but times and needs change. Look at the Falls of Clyde and their Maritime Museum. They are having a hard time maintaining the ship let alone keeping the museum doors open.
on May 27,2013 | 10:25AM
false wrote:
Do we need a WW! memorial? If I recall, we do have the nicely maintained Punchbowl to honor all veterans.
on May 27,2013 | 06:22PM
mrluke wrote:
Uh, Punchbowl is a cemetary. Do YOU have a problem with a memorial dedicated to specific veterans?
on May 27,2013 | 08:13PM
false wrote:
Wasn't alive then. Ai no kea.
on May 27,2013 | 10:35PM
Aquarius1 wrote:
Why does the facade/arches have to be moved? The pool can be removed.
on May 27,2013 | 11:46AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
So have your beach, beach volleyball or whatever, BUT why shouldn't the city pay for the movement of the WW I war memorial to a prominent position in the new facility? Is that too much to ask that it be kept in memory of the 10,000 soldiers from HI who put their lives on the line and/or died for their country? Perhaps this should be expected. Those of us who returned from Vietnam to epithets and protests, paid for our own war memorial, and watched the draft dodgers and war protestors become governors and presidents should not be surprised, particularly, in this age when only 1% of the country serves. Auwe noho'i e! Well all great powers only last for a limited period of time. With many of the people we've had in power since WW II, it looks like we're on the downward slope.
on May 27,2013 | 07:59AM
mrluke wrote:
Not a surprise. "We" have millions to squander on welfare and giveaways to anyone who wants a handout, but nothing as a remembrance to those who gave for us.
on May 27,2013 | 08:17AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I'd like to see a portion of this area developed as a memorial to all of the Hawaii veterans not just World War 1. It seems fitting that the many visitors to Waikiki - foreign and domestic - be reminded that sun and fun times come with a serious cost. I do not picture a giant, grandiose arch or Greek-style edifice with columns and domes. I have a vision of something smaller, more local, with personalization, carefully tended and treated with respect. Perhaps a place for folks to sit, look out on the ocean and reflect. Restore the beach, make the ocean accessible but forget the parking lot, concessions and lifeguard offices. Let's make a part of this area "sacred ground". A fitting anchor - Ft. DeRussy on one end and a new memorial on the other.
on May 27,2013 | 09:35AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
I apologize in advance if this suggestion is considered disrespectful.

The pool is clearly useless, and the monument itself is really just concrete and stucco. Instead of trying to move an enormous, crumbling pile of concrete, wouldn't it be faster, cheaper, and easier to just create its exact replica a few hundred feet inland? You could even incorporate ground up concrete from the original.

on May 27,2013 | 10:13AM
mrluke wrote:
Nothing to apologize for. Makes sense, but don't wait for it to happen.
on May 27,2013 | 08:14PM
Latest News/Updates
Volley Shots
Fey, Enriques on MJNT

Political Radar
Wilhelmina Rise, et al.

Court Sense
Cold War

Political Radar
Climate change

Island Crafters

Warrior Beat
Empty pit

Political Radar

Political Radar
`Progressive hero’