Natatorium War Memorial named a National Treasure

Natatorium War Memorial
Natatorium War Memorial

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Natatorium War Memorial as the organization’s newest National Treasure.

The National Treasures program identifies endangered historic places across the country and implements plans to save them.

“The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is a one-of-a-kind resource that is unique to both Hawaii and the nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and chief executive officer for the National Trust. “This Treasure designation reflects our commitment to developing a collaborative preservation plan to once again make the Natatorium a vibrant aquatic facility for future generations to enjoy.”

Despite the naming, the city said without the $70 million in funding required to restore or rebuild the structure, it is moving ahead with plans to demolish the Natatorium and turn it into a beach.

An environmental impact statement is on track to be completed in 2015 to move the arch and create a new memorial, officials said.

To commemorate the naming of the Natatorium as a National Treasure, the National Trust and Friends of the Natatorium are asking members of the community to participate in an oral history video project.

On May 20, 21, and 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. members of the community are invited to come by to the Kainalu Room at Elks Lodge 616, 2933 Kalakaua Ave., to record their memories of learning to swim or competing at the Natatorium or just enjoying it with their families.

The oral history vignettes will be uploaded to a YouTube channel hosted by the Friends, a local nonprofit committed to the preservation and restoration of the Natatorium.

The Natatorium War Memorial was built in 1927 as a tribute to the 10,000 Hawaii residents who served in World War I, including soldiers, sailors, Red Cross workers, emergency responders and missionaries.

Designed by nationally renowned architect Lewis Hobart, the Natatorium features an iconic archway leading to a saltwater pool that pays tribute to Hawaii’s indigenous swimming traditions and its role in Olympic history.

In 1979, the Natatorium was closed to the public because of severe disrepair.

It is recognized as an architectural landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

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