Photos: Courtesy of Matt Thayer
Article Written By: Michael Keany, HONOLULU Magazine
What is it?
As one of Maui’s first Japanese Christian churches, the Pu‘unene Congregational Church played an important part in the lives of many plantation workers who lived and worked near the Pu‘unene Sugar Mill. Built in 1910, the church has housed multiple congregations, including the United Church of Christ (1949 to 1968) and the Lanakila Church of Full Gospel of Jesus Christ (1972 to 1995).
What threatens it?
The church has been sitting vacant for more than a decade, and its owner, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., is eyeing the site for a possible new ethanol plant. To its credit, the company has been doing its best to avoid tearing the church down. HC&S’s Derek Heafey says, “It’s such a beautiful church, and it would be a shame to demolish it; we’ve been trying to give it away for years.” What’s not to like about a free church? Turns out it’s a bit of a white elephant: Local moving companies were estimating the cost of moving the structure at $500,000 or more.
What can be done?
HC&S had gone as far as applying for a demolition permit when Big Island contractor Tom Quinlan stepped forward. An experienced historic preservation expert, Quinlan has volunteered to move the entire church, although he’s still looking for someone willing to accept a church on their property. “I’m hoping to get word out to find a place I could relocate it on Maui,” Quinlan says. Time is running out—Heafey says HC&S wants the church relocated by January 2007.