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Historic building may get new life

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    The 100-year-old Davies Hall, above, next to St. Andrew's Cathedral, is scheduled for renovation.
    Davies Hall features a cornerstone that was laid by Queen Liliuokalani.

A $500,000 grant from the state Legislature was the financial stimulus for a renovation project that will turn a rundown historical building into a community meeting place in downtown Honolulu.

The Episcopal diocese will launch a capital campaign tomorrow to raise a total of $1.5 million to restore Davies Hall on the grounds of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

The free-standing building in the shadow of the cathedral tower, made of stone quarried in Honouliuli, was completed in 1909. It was endowed by the family of Theo H. Davies, an English businessman whose company became one of the Big Five firms that controlled island business before World War II.

"Queen Liliuokalani laid the cornerstone," said Episcopal Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, who has been reading a book by the first Episcopal bishop describing "Hawaii From the Viewpoint of a Bishop." Church archives contain an engraved trowel identified as the tool the deposed queen used, Fitzpatrick said.

In recent years the hall has been used by Hawaii Theatre for Youth and as a meeting place for 12-Step programs. Meals are cooked in its kitchen for the Institute for Human Services and for a Sunday afternoon outreach to homeless people.

The bishop said opening the hall for a wider community use fulfills the intention of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, who brought English clergy here to establish St. Andrew’s. "There was the desire for the ceremony and dignity of traditional worship, and at the same time, responsibility to serve the community."

The accent was on community use when the state grant was discussed in the Legislature, which has previously given money to another historic church, Kawaiahao Church.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads (D, Chinatown-Downtown) said: "It’s centrally located and a great community meeting place. The church assured me that they will make it available. My understanding is there won’t be much of a charge; that will be unusual."

But a voice of dissent can be heard among the cathedral congregation.

"I don’t think the state should have contributed $500,000," said Willis Moore. "I’m reverting to my Baptist roots, wanting to keep separation of church and state. I think a church should be about ministry and mission, and not constantly talking about paving the parking lot and fixing something."

Moore, a college professor and member of the cathedral, balks at the idea of a capital campaign. He said the cathedral "has an income stream in excess of $1 million a year" from renting parking space and from Japanese wedding businesses. "It could be used for repairs, maintenance, restoration. … instead it has been used to support a large and well-compensated cathedral staff."

Fitzpatrick said he’s "confident this is an appropriate use of state funds. It is part of the heritage in terms of island history.

"St. Andrew’s has done a fine job of trying to be hospitable and welcoming, not the isolation that can be part of an urban congregation.

"I’m proud of the fact that the vision of the congregation is outreach," the bishop said. "I think it’s going to be important for the community."


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