KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — After the shaking stopped, Hulihee Palace officials wondered if the earthquake had changed history.
In the aftermath of last Sunday's 6.7 magnitude temblor, administrator Fanny Au Hoy said there were tears, followed by determination to restore and reopen one of Kailua-Kona's Hawaiian cultural landmarks and a popular tourist favorite.
While it typically welcomes 300 to 500 visitors each day, the palace is closed indefinitely due to structural damage suffered in the quake.
"After so many years working to preserve it, to see it crumble was just heartbreaking," she said. "It's a national treasure and community gem that must be saved."
Hulihee Palace, the two-story state and national historic landmark on Kailua Bay, houses myriad Hawaiian artifacts dating to pre-contact days and long served as a vacation spot for Hawaiian royalty.
"It really has taken it's toll on the building," Au Hoy said. "There are cracks in every room."
The six-room building was built in 1838 of lava rock, coral mortar, stucco and plaster. The Daughters of Hawaii took charge in 1927, made extensive renovations and opened the palace — one of only three in the country — as a museum.
Its history makes it worth saving, said Afaq Sarwar of Sarwar Structural Engineering. After surveying the building Wednesday, Sarwar said he is optimistic.
"My first impression was sadness to see all that damage," he said. "The solution is to find a middle ground to keep the historic integrity and extend the life of the building with modern materials. It should be possible. There are good people involved and it's important to keep that historic fabric for future generations."
"My reaction was that this was so tragic," Au Hoy said.
Huge cracks spider-web up the exterior of the south wall and along the interior walls. Chunks of plaster crashed from the ceilings, and entire strips of molding peeled away from the walls.
After ensuring all five staff members were safe, Au Hoy said she broke down.
"Then after a few tears," she said, "you just kind of dust yourself off and say, 'Let's get her fixed.'"
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Only one picture fell off the wall, and none of the cabinets or larger pieces pitched forward, Au Hoy said.
"In that way, we've been blessed. We have three, possibly four artifacts that have been damaged," she said.
One of Princess Ruth's portable writing desks fell from its display, while another desk and a display of spears were struck by falling plaster.
Au Hoy said she initially wondered if they might be restored, but now is considering leaving the artifacts as they are, incorporating this event in their histories.
Late in the week, county officials issued the building a "red tag," deeming it uninhabitable.
Slideshow: Paradise rocked While no one lives in the palace, it is a popular tourist attraction and site of many weddings and special events.
It will remain closed indefinitely while State Historic Preservation teams continue to assess damage. There is some concern more aftershocks could further damage the south wall.
While repair estimates have yet to be finalized, Au Hoy said more money will be needed. The Daughters of Hawaii has an annual budget of approximately $200,000.
"Volunteers are coming come to offer assistance, but it's too early to say how they can help," Au Hoy said. "We really need to find the funding."
While she said she will explore federal grants and other government sources, private donations already are streaming in.
"One lady walked in through the front door and said she'd like to write us a check," Au Hoy said. "She wrote it for $1,000 and then walked out. That was the best thing that has happened since Sunday morning."
The Daughters of Hawaii are accepting donations to help with the restoration.
Donations may be sent to: Hulihee Palace, 75-5718 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740. The telephone number is: 808-329-9555.
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