Photography: Courtesy of David Croxford

Article Written By: Loren Moreno, HONOLULU Magazine

What is it?

Located across the street from the first statue of King Kamehameha the Great in Kapa‘au on the Big Island, Bond Memorial Public Library served the people of this historic community for more than 80 years.

This tiny, cottagelike building sits on land donated in 1927 to the then-Territory of Hawai‘i by Caroline Bond for the purposes of building a library. Twelve years later, the state renamed the library after local philanthropist Benjamin Bond, and it remained in use until 2010. Over the years, the 1,610-square-foot New England-style building, resembling a small house and harkening back to Kapa‘au’s sugar-plantation era, has become a familiar landmark. “It’s quite a gem,” says Rhoady Lee, a Big Island architect working to preserve the building. “It’s an elegant little structure, a great relic of the past.”

What threatens it?

When the state Public Library System christened a new, modern library in North Kohala in 2010, the Bond Memorial Public Library building fell out of use, says Keith Fujio, administrative services officer with the state Public Library System.

Library officials attempted to return the land back to the heirs of the Bond Estate, the New Moon Foundation, but, “They didn’t want the property back,” Fujio says. Now, the library system is in the process of turning the land over to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which will then decide what to do with the property.

“The building is old, but it has been well-maintained over the years,” Fujio says. “That being said, the land is significantly more valuable than the building itself.”

What can be done?

Ultimately, it will be up to the state to decide what will happen with the property and the building that resides on it. Lee is working with a grassroots community group, Ka‘apa‘apa‘a ‘O Kohala, to form a nonprofit so the organization can lease the property and turn the building into a museum chronicling North Kohala’s plantation past. Lee also hopes another nonprofit agency interested in preserving the structure might step forward to help lease the property in the interim.