Historic County Building reopens

LIHU‘E — The County Council on Wednesday returned to its original home, the 98-year-old Historic County Building in the Lihu‘e Civic Center Historic District.

A blessing early in the morning marked the celebration of the council’s home-coming, after 18 months doing business at the temporary Nawiliwili Council Chambers.

But Wednesday was a little too soon for the council to begin official business at the oldest, continuously used county building in the state of Hawai‘i. After the ceremonies, the council returned to Nawiliwili Chambers for its last council meeting there.

Besides the seven-member council body and its staff, the opening ceremony was attended by several Kaua‘i politicians, including Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., state Sen. Ron Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i, and state reps. Derek Kawakami, D-14th District, Dee Morikawa, D-16th District and Jimmy Tokioka, D-15th District.

The administration’s staff, police officers and firefighters also attended the ceremony, along with former mayors, former council members and former council staff.

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said the renovation cost $4.8 million, and took 16 months. Council services said the lease at Nawiliwili Chambers cost $30,000 per month, including utilities.

Robert Schleck and Phyllis Kunimura — wife of the late Mayor Tony Kunimura — helped to guide the project, co-chairing the Kaua’i County Building Restoration Committee

The restoration included interior and exterior painting; installation of a cornice on the exterior of the building; installation of casement windows and return to original flooring, according to Daubert. In addition, new plumbing and wiring to accommodate modern technology were installed.

Historic site

The National Register and the Hawai‘i Register in 1981 placed the Lihu‘e Civic Center Historic District as a historic site. Besides the County Building, the Civic Center includes the County Building Annex and the Lihu‘e Courthouse.

The County Building was built in 1913, but Lihu‘e Town functioned as the center of Island Government much earlier than that. In the late 1830s, then-governor of Kaua‘i, Kaikioewa, moved from Waimea, the island’s traditional seat of government, to Lihu‘e, according to the National Register.

In 1851 a frame courthouse — long gone — was built in the Civic Center.

Following the annexation in 1898 of Hawai‘i to the United States — the monarchy was overthrown in 1893 — the Territorial government passed the County Act in 1905, which established county governments on the four largest islands.

Lihu‘e became the county seat of Kaua‘i, where commissioners held monthly meetings in the 1851 courthouse, until the County Building was built in 1913, according to the National Register.

The County Annex Building — next to the County Building — was built in 1930 as the Territorial Office Building. The Courthouse Building was built in 1938.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.


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