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City of Refuge Christian Church (New Waipahu Theater)

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New Waipahu Theater
1930, Louis Davis. 94-897 Waipahu Rd., Waipahu

The finest Art Deco movie house still standing in Hawaii, the New Waipahu Theater infuses the style with a splash of the tropics. Defined by a gently sweeping green tile pent roof and prominent, centered, towerlike entrance, the theater softens the geometric emphasis of Art Deco in a regionally appropriate manner, without compromising the crisp, clean ornament. The entrance's incongruous paired Corinthian columns dignify the structure in an offbeat, upbeat manner. The three exterior ticket windows with their wrought-iron grilles remain. The Spanish tile dado with its foliated pattern was painted over in recent years.

The interior is almost intact, and its constricted foyer is an Art Deco tour de force. A multi-cylindrical aluminum chandelier descends from a painted and corbeled ceiling, while a fantastic plaster bas-relief frieze spilling over with bananas and stylized exotic foliage frames the ceiling. The 850-seat auditorium keeps pace with its painted coffered ceiling, and the proscenium arch's serrated, receding planes gleam with aluminum leaf accents. The City of Refuge Christian Church has faithfully maintained the character of this structure since their acquisition of it in 1985.

The former Waipahu Fire Station adjoins the theater. Built in 1932, the station's modest Art Deco design and tile pent roof complement its ornate neighbor, without stealing the theater's thunder. The capitals on the corner pilasters resurrect a nineteenth-century cast-iron facade motif.

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard


What's Nearby


Don J. Hibbard, "City of Refuge Christian Church (New Waipahu Theater)", [Waipahu, Hawaii], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Hawaii

Buildings of Hawaii, Don J. Hibbard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, 180-181.

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