Designed with 1890s military technology to defend Oahu, the gigantic artillery redoubt at Battery Randolph in Waikiki was designed to withstand anything thrown against it. In 1969, when the Army tried to demolish it, Battery Randolph shattered wrecking balls and bankrupted demolition contractors. The Army gave up and established the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii in what was left of the structure.
On Tuesday, the museum dedicated the battery’s rebuilt parapets, the massive walls that originally protected the 14-inch "disappearing rifles" that reared up and fired over the rim. The 15-foot-thick parapets had been broken up in the original demolition effort.
According to retired Gen. David Bramlett, president of the Hawaii Army Museum Society, the parapet restoration had been the dream of the late society President Herb Wolff, and he also credited the "vision" of engineer Lt. Col. Michael Ferrill and the generosity of Dr. Lawrence Tseu, whose contributions helped complete the $710,000 project.
Two years ago, the museum — shoeboxed into the current structure — was denied recertification due to overwhelmed storage facilities. Ferrill suggested the solution was upward rather than outward: Rebuild the parapets to restore the original architecture of the facility, but make them hollow and add administrative and storage space.
"It opens up over 7,400 square feet of new administrative, classrooms, workshops, galleries’ and exhibits’ areas for an ever-growing collection of artifacts," said Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, U.S. Army Hawaii commanding general.
Ferrill’s other idea was to use Army Reserve engineers to construct the parapets as a training exercise.
"I would especially like to thank the United States Army Reserve Command, their soldiers and engineer units, for taking on this project," said Terry. "Over 310 Army Reserve soldiers worked around the clock in three 21-day rotations — traveling here from their home-stations in the mainland and Puerto Rico — spending their days, nights, and weekends reconstructing the parapets as part of their yearly annual training requirement. … You have completed in 63 days what could have easily taken 18 months under other circumstances. Your work saved the taxpayers in excess of over $2.9 million."
According to Victoria Olson of Hawaii Army Museum Society, the project is the largest attempted at the facility in three decades.
"Army engineers are the hardest-working soldiers in the military — when you give them a job!" said Bramlett.
The next step is to complete and furnish the new rooms within the parapets, a step that museum director Judith Bowman estimated will take several months.