Visit The Waikiki Natatorium While You Still Can

Waikiki Natatorium 1928 by Waikiki Natatorium on Flickr

At the foot of Diamond Head, the once stately Waikiki Natatorium, a structure containing a swimming pool, honors World War I soldiers. The first time I passed by the ornate gates with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean, I felt the eerie stillness of the closed building in contrast to the bustling pedestrian traffic around me.

Feature Photo Credit: Waikiki Natatorium

The Waikiki Natatorium honors the 101 residents of Hawaii who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War I and the 10,000 other Hawaii residents who were involved in the war effort. Hawaii did not become a state until 1959, and these Hawaiian Territory residents enlisted with American and British forces. The journey to purchase ocean front property and create a war memorial is described in the book “Hawaii in the World War“.

The War Memorial (Waikiki Natatorium) (photo credit: Noel F. Williams)

Salt water pools were the rage in the early 1900′s and this popular pool, bleachers and locker rooms attracted residents and visitors until closing in 19791. The building condition had deteriorated to a point where it was deemed unsafe for use. Currently, the Natatorium parking lot is used by surfers, fisherman and swimmers as well as visitors to the local parks.

Things were different during the pools heyday. Hawaiian Olympian Duke Kahanamoku celebrated his birthday as the first swimmer in the pool on opening day August 24, 19272. Other famous bathers included fellow Olympians and movie stars Esther Williams, Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller.

Swimmers no longer spend afternoons cooling off in the pool. The now closed Natatorium is listed on the National3 and State Registers of Historic Places. An 11 million dollar project restored the facade of the landmark though the interior work was never completed. All efforts stopped and funding for the site withdrawn under Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann4. Beyond the facade, the walkways and bleachers continue to crumble and erode. Large holes gape in the pool deck.

The mayor met with representatives of interested groups to decide the fate of the Natatorium. In 2009, the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force voted to tear down the historic site and move the gates to another location in Honolulu5.

The Waikiki Natatorium

Friends of the Natatorium formed to fight the demolition of the site. Their blog documents the Natatorium’s Golden Age, current remembrances and follows the controversial plans to demolish the building. You can follow these stories on Twitter and Facebook.

Roll of Honor (photo credit: Noel F. Williams)

Across the street from the Natatorium is a small and lesser known Honor Roll with the names of all 101 Hawaii Territory soldiers who served in World War I etched in the marble stone.

Historical Facts:

The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is both a swimming pool and a war memorial – a living memorial. Common in other countries such as Australia, the Natatorium was the first living memorial of its kind built in the United States.

This WWI memorial is to the over 10,000 Hawaii residents who were involved in the war effort and the 101 who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Natatorium’s grand opening was on August 24, 1927. Johnny Weissmuller, Duke Kahanamoku, and Buster Crabbe were all in attendance. It was Duke’s birthday, and Johnny set a world 100 meter record that day.

- Waikiki Natatorium

The Waikiki Natatorium is located at the east end of Waikiki Beach on Kalakaua Ave just east of Kapahulu Ave (Map). When you visit the Natatorium, stop by the nearby Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo.

About this guest blogger:
April M. Williams is a frequent visitor to Hawaii and a great friend of 808Talk. She is also the author of the book “Social Networking Throughout Your Career”, available in paperback and on the Kindle.

Learn more about April by visiting her at the websites below.
CyberLife Tutors Blog
Personal Blog

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