UH Hilo anthropologist Peter Mills receives Hawai‘i’s highest recognition of preservation projects

Peter Mills and colleague Alexander Molodin have received commendation from the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation for their preservation efforts of Fort Elizabeth on Kaua‘i.

By Susan Enright.

Computer generated photo: On the beach, fort wall and several structures inside walls. Ocean in background.
Computer generated photo of Fort Elizabeth, Kauaʻi, as it looked in 1817. Courtesy photo.
Peter Mills in the field
Peter Mills

Peter Mills, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, along with Russian colleague Alexander Molodin, dean of the Novosibirsk State Academy of Architecture, have been recognized by the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation for their outstanding preservation efforts related to Fort Elizabeth on Kaua‘i.

Mills and Molodin have received a Preservation Commendation Award from the foundation, Hawai‘i’s highest recognition of preservation projects that perpetuate, rehabilitate, restore or interpret the state’s architectural, archaeological and/or cultural heritage.

Alexander Molodin
Alexander Molodin

The fort, built largely by Hawaiian hands, was part of King Kaumuali‘i’s residential compound and was never really occupied by the Russians as the commonly used name “Russian Fort” implies. Instead, Mills’s 2002 book, Hawaiʻi’s Russian Adventure, demonstrates that this was really Kaumuali‘i’s fort, built as part of his Russian alliance to maintain Kaua‘i’s sovereignty from Kamehameha. As such, its unique architecture reflects much about Hawaiian culture in the early 19th century, and very little about Russians.

In the Fort Elizabeth Architectural Reconstruction Study, Mills and Molodin use modern computer technology and 3D modeling to reconstruct the appearance of the fortress in detail, including its separate structures and its position relative to the existing natural landscape. This allows the researchers to also analyze the fort’s defense options.

In the letter notifying the two researchers of the award, Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, states: “The results of the study provide a more public visibility to this monument, which was created by a fusion of Russian, American and traditional Hawaiian cultures. It also provides some estimates for what would be necessary to design and complete a full-scale restoration of the fortress.”

The foundation’s Honor Awards Committee recommends the study be combined with the team’s other scholarly works “in order to make a proposed reconstruction design solution and budget documentation for a full-scale restoration of the fortress and present it to the land owners.”

“We congratulate you on your exemplary preservation efforts,” states Faulkner.

The two scholars will receive their award at the 2015 Preservation Honor Awards Ceremony held by the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation on May 29 in Honolulu.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.