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Hawaii Theatre Receives National Trust Award
November 2, 2006

The historic Hawaii Theater in Honolulu received the National Preservation Honor Award from the United States National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2006.

Outside of the Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu
Photo Credit: United States National Trust

National Trust Presents National Preservation Honor Award to the Hawaii Theatre Center in Honolulu

On November 2, 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation presented the Hawaii Theatre Center in Honolulu its prestigious National Preservation Honor Award. The project was one of 21 national award winners honored by the National Trust during its week-long 2006 National Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.

When it opened in 1922, the Hawaii Theatre - with its splendid neo-classic design - was a showstopper in Honolulu's bustling Chinatown neighborhood. A grand movie palace, the theatre was famous for its double cantilevered balcony, steel reinforced concrete foundation, air cooling system with vents under each of the theatre's 1,700 seats and scenery from one of America's foremost set designers.

Affectionately called "The Pride of the Pacific," the theatre was built when Hawaii was still a territory of the United States and statehood was 37 years away. An immediate sensation, the Hawaii screened Douglas Fairbanks' The Three Musketeers to packed houses the day after its grand opening.

With the development of Waikiki Beach though, the entertainment center of the city gradually shifted away from the downtown area, and Chinatown became a backwater, its decline tragically epitomized in the 1984 closing of the once-grand Hawaii Theatre. While demolition seemed imminent, supporters weren't ready to let the theatre die. They formed a nonprofit corporation, garnered support from business leaders and conducted three successful capital campaigns, raising more than $32 million to purchase, restore and reopen the showplace. The extensive renovations included everything from fašade restoration and stabilization to a replica of the familiar "HAWAII" neon sign.

"Movie palaces are all about fantasy - but the restoration of the Hawaii Theatre has sparked a revitalization that is a vibrant reality," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The restoration of the Hawaii is a lasting tribute to a community that refused to see a cherished icon lost forever."

Today, the Hawaii Theatre is a financially successful - and drop-dead glamorous - performance venue that attracts more than 100,000 patrons annually. The Hawaii Theatre's success has jump-started revitalization all over Chinatown, reversing decay and attracting reinvestment that has spruced up every building in the theatre's vicinity. More than 60,000 people now live in the once-struggling neighborhood, and thousands more flock to the restaurants, stores and galleries that have sprung up since the theatre's reopening.

The National Preservation Awards are bestowed on distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, public agencies and corporations whose skill and determination have given new meaning to their communities through preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage. These efforts include citizen attempts to save and maintain important landmarks; companies and craftsmen whose work restores the richness of the past; the vision of public officials who support preservation projects and legislation in their communities; and educators and journalists who help Americans understand the value of preservation.

See also:
- Inside Photo of the Hawaii Theatre
- Outside Photo of the Hawaii Theatre
- Kumu Kahua Theatre in Downtown Honolulu

Other Historic Buildings on Oahu:
- Historic Building Tours on Oahu
- Historic Home Tours on Oahu
- The Historic Capitol District of Honolulu

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