Historic Heritage

Punahou's Commitment to its Architectural and Historic Heritage

As one of the oldest educational institutions in Hawai‘i, Punahou takes great pride in its historic and architectural heritage. Old School Hall, built in 1851, is the second building constructed after Punahou’s founding and remains standing today – thanks to decades of careful preservation and renovations. Old School Hall (1851), Pauahi Hall (1896), the President’s Home (1907), Cooke Hall (1908), Alexander Hall (1933), Dillingham Hall (1929), Wilcox Hall (1936) and Montague Hall (1937) are all examples of historic buildings that have been thoughtfully maintained and renovated over the years.

Between 1985 and 2010 alone, the School spent $22.4 million (valued today at $37 million when adjusted for inflation) to bring these structures up-to-date, and we will continue to invest in them as long as they permit us to effectively carry out our educational mission.

We also consider Ka Punahou, the spring which is the School’s namesake, to be an invaluable part of our historic heritage. Fundamental to the identity of the School and the experience of our students, Ka Punahou is the oldest and most iconic feature of our campus and serves as its spiritual center. It occupies a central role in the vision for our future learning environments.

One of the challenges posed by the Campus Master Plan is the future of two important and iconic facilities: the Mary Persis Winne Units and Castle Hall.

The Winne Units were designed by renowned architect Vladimir Ossipoff and built between 1950 – 1955. After six decades of use by generations of Punahou students and faculty, the complex will make way for the new facilities for grades 2 – 5, which represent the final step in a decades-long initiative to reimagine the Junior School. Like the successful Case Middle School and Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood developments, the new 2 – 5 facilities are based on faculty input regarding instructional program and needs for our younger learners. Inspired by research in the neurology of children’s learning, the facilities prioritize flexibility, adaptability and collaborative uses that promote the skills our children need to succeed in the 21st century. Because outdoor environments are as important to a child’s learning experience as indoor ones, the facilities also prioritize a variety of open, green spaces for diverse outdoor learning opportunities that compliment indoor ones.

Punahou is committed to honoring the years of joyful teaching and learning that have taken place at the Winne Units, whose spirit will live on in the memories of those who worked and learned there, and in many of the design principles that were incorporated into the new facilities. These include:

  • A deliberate unity of the indoors and outdoors;
  • The lanai and garden spaces that made each classroom feel so much like a home;
  • The preservation of original building materials and iconic elements such as the Winne Bell;
  • The Julia Ing Learning Center, completed in 1990 and one of Ossipoff’s last projects, will remain as the centerpiece of the new K – 8 Learning Commons;
  • There will be a designated exhibit space in the new facilities to house the recorded memories of former Winne faculty and students, and to allow the community to remember both the Winne Units and Castle Hall.

Castle Hall was built in 1913 as a girls’ dormitory thanks to the generosity of Mary Tenney Castle. It served as a residential community for generations of Punahou girls before being repurposed for classroom use in 1964, after the boarding program ended. It was also renovated in 2007 – 2008, partly to address safety and structural concerns. Punahou has invested over $1.8 million (valued at $2.2 million today when adjusted for inflation) to repurpose and maintain Castle Hall over the last 50 years, despite the fact that its original function as a dormitory did not stand the test of time as an appropriate learning environment for elementary-school students.

Our faculty have done their best to work around these challenges over the years. However, with the redesign of grades 2 – 5 within the context of the guiding principles of the Campus Master Plan, Castle Hall’s physical limitations and, above all, its location and orientation, conflict with the School’s overall vision for its future learning environments.

A Vision for the Future

A primary component of this educational vision is the significant expansion of green, open spaces focusing on the campus core. Although it seems counterintuitive at a time when most schools are adding buildings, Punahou’s decision to expand its open space stems from a commitment to preserve one of the School’s – and Hawai‘i’s – most valuable resources. The plan also envisions the integration of our various “neighborhoods” – from K – 1 to the Academy – through the creation of a central commons around Ka Punahou, the oldest and most iconic feature of the campus.

Unlike the Winne Units, which will come down in the coming year to make way for the new grades 2 – 5 facilities, the removal of Castle Hall will not take place for many years.

The Punahou School Board of Trustees carefully evaluated the guiding principles of the Campus Master Plan and the desired experience of our future students. While it was a difficult decision to bring down these iconic structures because of their historic, aesthetic and community value, the Board voted to do so in May 2014 to make the comprehensive vision of Punahou’s learning environments possible.

The gift that their decision extends to future generations of Punahou students is a campus core in which a broad expanse of green space stretches from Cooke Library to the Diamond Head corner of Case Middle School. For the first time since its completion in 2004, more than 1,000 middle-school students will be integrated into the campus center, with direct access to a new 1.7-acre field where Castle Hall and a portion of the Winne Units currently stand. It is these children and the thousands more from kindergarten – grade 12 who will enjoy the unique outdoor environments radiating outward from Ka Punahou that motivated the Trustees’ decision.