Hawaii News | Keep Hawaii Hawaii Old courthouse serves community regardless of name By Robert M. Fox and David Cheever Sept. 7, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! ILLUSTRATION COURTESY JAMES M. FOXThe Waialua Courthouse underwent an extensive renovation that began in 1991. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. While I sat at the bus stop in Haleiwa — pretty well beat from having ridden my bicycle from the Hygienic Store in Kahaluu — I turned and looked away from the roadway, and a tired glance introduced me to the Waialua Courthouse. My first impression was of how serene the building and its pleasant grounds looked amidst the noise and clutter that is Haleiwa today. Without expending a lot of energy, I nevertheless had to struggle up from the bus bench and look over this small, classic old building. My first question, why is the Waialua Courthouse in Haleiwa? That began my digging for more information on a historic building that I probably would never have laid eyes on were it not for the bus stop on its front lawn. Palms and other trees also block the view from Kamehameha Highway, so passers-by could easily miss this vintage structure. Turns out the 1913 building has a very "Hawaii" history. The Waialua in Haleiwa part of the story involves the oftentimes tricky (sometimes imaginary) boundaries between areas in the islands. "I can’t figure it out," said Bob Vickery in a Jan. 13, 2002, article in the Honolulu Advertiser. "Why is the Waialua Courthouse right in the middle of Haleiwa? I’ve lived around these parts for 12 or 13 years. And I’m sorry, I just don’t know." Regardless of the name on the peak over the front entrance today, it should be noted that the building was not always a courthouse. In scraping away the old paint, workers might have found letters that spelled out, "Waialua Community Center" or "Waialua Post Office." Built on an acre of land fronting Kamehameha Highway, it has nonetheless mostly served as a house of justice over its long history. Matter of fact, the four prisoner cells in the basement are still there. But whatever it was used for, time and termites worked against this historic wooden building. There were reports that the building tilted so much on its foundation that at one point they couldn’t close the bathroom door. Rain would call for a bucket brigade since the roof was left unrepaired for many years. A Feb. 14, 1989, story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported: "Oahu’s last old-style country courthouse closed its doors for the final time today, a victim of insects (termites), weather and old age." Old photos confirm in detail the forlorn look of the shuttered building described in that article. There are energetic business people in Haleiwa, however, and they wanted something done to improve the look of the decaying old courthouse. They and others pressured the Department of Land and Natural Resources to do something with the building. It was finally agreed that the Historic Preservation Division of DLNR would supervise the restoration. And so with $640,000 from the state, work began in 1991 to extensively renovate the historic Waialua Courthouse. Don Hibbard, who was Historic Division administrator at the time, said every effort was made to maintain the look and feel of the original. As the Star-Bulletin reported in an Oct. 5, 1998, article, "Many coats of paint were stripped away from the woodwork to reveal the building’s original color scheme," Hibbard said. "The courthouse looks very much the same way it did in 1913, when it opened for the first time." Then the question became, for many in the community, what do we do with the building now that it’s been renovated? The solution was a 35-year lease with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, "To serve the Haleiwa community and Native Hawaiians," according to then-OHA Chairwoman A. Frenchy DeSoto. "As we have intended, it will be a home to nourish strident aspirations of our people and the Haleiwa community." The Historic Hawai’i Foundation describes the courthouse as "significant, as a fine example of Neo-Classical Revival with Greek elements. It features exaggerated, extended eaves which are a concession to the tropical climate as well as being a major element of the building’s style." Back to the Waialua/Haleiwa conundrum. Robert Schmidt, author and former state statistician who helped establish the statistical boundaries of Waialua and Haleiwa decades ago, said in the 2002 Advertiser article: "Haleiwa is a sort of popular name, and a recent arrival among names. Haleiwa is a town within the Waialua Court District. And so is Waialua town. They are defined for statistical purposes as ‘urban places.’ But they have no legal definition." I was at the bus stop in Haleiwa because I had taken the bus from town with my bike to the Hygienic Store and rode from there to Haleiwa with the intention that I would take the bus from Haleiwa back into town. That bike/bus trip worked splendidly — with the bonus of discovering the Waialua Courthouse. Keep Hawaii Hawaii is a monthly column on island architecture and urban planning. Robert M. Fox, president of Fox Hawaii Inc., studied architecture in California and Japan. He was one of the founders of the Historic Hawai’i Foundation in 1974. David Cheever, owner of David Cheever Marketing, has served on the boards of the Historic Hawai’i Foundation and the Hawaii Architectural Foundation. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Story Isles face widening shortage Next Story Budget crisis idles Guard across U.S.