Mānoa Heritage Center



Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau

When Monte and Lila Cooke decided to build their home they hired prominent Honolulu architects, Emory and Webb. Webb took part in designing the Hawai‘i Theatre. As a team, they designed many Honolulu residences and prominent buildings such as the YMCA, the First Methodist Church, and Waiʻoli Tea Room which is still a significant landmark in Mānoa Valley.  

The original architectural plans called for building the house on the heiau site. This seemed logical to the architects as the heiau site afforded stunning views of the valley and at the time, the coastline of Waikīkī. Monte Cooke insisted that their plans be changed and that Kūkaʻōʻō be left undisturbed. The house was built on its present site and for more than eighty years the heiau was undisturbed. Undisturbed, however, did not mean totally protected and as time passed, trees and plants grew over the heiau.

In 1948, Monte Cooke died. His wife lived another twenty-two years and passed away in 1970. Upon her death, Kūaliʻi estate was divided between her two children. Monte and Lila’s grandson, Samuel Alexander Cooke, and his wife Mary purchased the house in 1970 and began extensive repairs and renovations. Their purchase, however, did not include the land on which Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau rests. Other heirs of Monte Cooke eventually sold that land to a developer. The developer planned to subdivide the land for private residences.

Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau was in danger of destruction yet again but was saved by Sam and Mary Cooke. They were able to purchase the parcel of land containing the heiau and two other parcels where our visitor education hale now stands. In 1993, the process of cleaning and restoring the heiau began and in 1994, they hired Billy Fields, a Hawaiian stonemason, to restore the heiau. Sam and Mary also planned and planted the surrounding Native Hawaiian garden that includes endemic and indigenous plants, many of them endangered species.

In 1997, they transferred ownership of the heiau and garden to the Kūaliʻi Foundation and the Mānoa Heritage Center, two private non-profit organizations committed to preserving and sharing the heiau with the public. Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau stands today as the last remaining intact heiau in the ahupuaʻa of Waikīkī. The residence and heiau were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and are now protected by Federal law.