This rusty old warehouse has a possible tie to America’s segregated history

African American group wants Quonset hut listed as historic site

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An old Quonset hut on property in Pearl City is rusty and riddled with holes.

But historian and researcher Deloris Guttman wants it preserved as a piece of African American history.

“It was a storage house for the supplies for the 100 Quonset huts that were there in 1943 and ’44,” she said.

Guttman works with the African American Diversity Council Center Hawaii.

The group believes during World War II the structure was part of the U.S. military’s Manana Barracks, a segregated encampment for black laborers and enlisted men.

"It's almost like hallowed ground," the council's Edward Young said.

The group wants the building protected and added to the National Register of Historic Sites.

“Where was the African American presence in World War II? All these men who came from the mainland to work and live in segregated housing, most of it’s gone” Young said.

The University of Hawaii owns the land the Quonset hut sits on. The area is on the site of the Oahu Urban Garden Center.

Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said UH appreciates the group’s efforts and is willing to donate the structure or relocate it off UH property.

The university is concerned historic site status would saddle it with financial burdens for repair and maintenance.

"There's a lot of questions that have to be answered, regarding public access, providing safe public access, lighting, the structure itself, it's integrity, it's safety," Meisenzahl said.

Guttman has been researching Manana Barracks since 2014. She said it was home to some African American athletes who’d go on to play baseball in the famed Negro League, and talented musicians including jazz legend John Coltrane

"We have that history and their photographs, where they were entertaining at different clubs here on the island during World War II," she said.

Next month Guttman will present her petition for historic recognition to the State Historic Preservation Division.

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