For several reasons, 100 people standing in the restored 109-year-old Ka Lanakila Church at Keomoku on Lanai for its commemoration Saturday was a "historic event."
One of the main reasons: No one fell through the floor.
"One hundred people were standing in the building and it didn't fall down," said Mikala Enfield, office assistant and interpreter at the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center on Monday. "So it was a very historic event for us on Lanai.
The restoration of Ka Lanakila Church at Keomoku on Lanai was marked with a celebration Saturday. About 100 people stood on floorboards in the church that were once so rotted that they were unsafe to stand on.
HawaiiONTV.com / KEN MARTINEZ URGMAIER photo
"You wouldn't walk in typically because you were afraid of falling through the floor," she added.
The restoration of the historic Christian church in the old village of Keomoku, once the site of the Maunalei Sugar Mill on Lanai's eastern shore, was marked by the celebration attended by 200 people.
Kupuna in their mid-90s who attended the church as children opened the event. A senior ukulele group played, kupuna sang hymns of the day and a potluck followed, said Enfield.
In the late afternoon, the center hosted a viewing of the 1987 documentary "Reflections of Lanai," which was followed by the Lanai premiere of "Voices of Lanai," a mini-documentary prepared by Ken Martinez Burgmaier of JazzAlley TV.
The nonprofit center seeks to collect and document Lanai's past for residents and visitors.
The celebration also encompassed the clearing of the remnants of the old sugar mill behind the church, a locomotive down the road, a bread oven and a boat used for travel to Maui and for transport of supplies. These historic sites are part of an interpretive walking tour of the area, pretty much abandoned after the mill, built in 1899, closed in 1901. Most residents of the village moved to Lanai City, said Enfield.
The clearing of overgrowth shrouding the mill and other sites and the restoration of the church were part of the center's Lanai Community Heritage Stewardship program, begun in 2010. The work, funded by grants from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Agape Foundation, was done by a group of community volunteers with the center, under the guidance of Kaulana Kahoohalahala and Randy Mosher, the center's website said.
The interpretive trails that involved clearing the overgrown sites of the mill, locomotive, boat and bread oven, but not necessarily restoring them, appeared the best alternative to save the historic sites and items and "to bring life back to them," said Enfield.
The church, one of the last buildings in the area, could be used as a meeting place, though it will be more a place for visitors and residents to see life in Lanai's past.
"The church was beginning to look like it was sinking," she said, citing siltation as the cause. "It was about to fall down. The wood was all rotten."
Siltation had buried the entire footing of the 24-by-40-foot building, according to the center's website.
"Everything was replaced," Enfield added about the church opened by the Rev. Daniel Kaopuiki and his wife, Hattie, in 1903.
The ceremony marking the restoration of the past came amid the changes in the present with David Murdock's sale of Lanai to multibillionaire Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle Corp. Murdock and Castle & Cooke own 98 percent of the island.
The present did not come up.
"The sale of Lanai was not a topic of conversation," said Enfield.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.