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On Viewing Some Old Buildings in Honolulu


On Viewing Some Old Buildings in Honolulu Š 2016, K. W. Bridges

All of the photos were taken by the author in 2015 or 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Front: `Iolani Palace (makai side)


On Viewing Some Old Buildings in Honolulu A photo essay about some historic buildings located in the Capitol District

K. W. Bridges 2016


Preface There is a small section of Honolulu that has a wealth of historic buildings. Many of these buildings were constructed during the nearly century-long Hawaiian Monarchy Period (1795-1893). The buildings are preserved and, for the most part, are still in use. This area is called the "Capitol District" as it is near the current Capitol Building of the State of Hawai`i. (The statute defining this area uses the name “Capital District” but most state officials now seem to prefer “Capitol District.”) I am interested in these buildings but have done little in the past to understand their origin, importance and uses. This short photo essay is a partial remedy. The focus here is on the outside views of the old buildings in this district. The buildings themselves are mostly government structures, along with a few of the early churches. One commercial and few other public buildings are included as they fit into the story of the periods during which the other buildings were constructed. It is easy to view these buildings, at least the exteriors, on a short walking tour. The order of the building discussed and shown here is arranged for such a walking tour. The walk forms a loop with the start and finish near each other.


Establishing Honolulu The ships of Captain James Cook made the first Western contact with Hawai'i in 1778. Cook named these the Sandwich Islands. This name lasted until the 1840s when it was replaced by the more popular current name, Hawaiian Islands. While much of the early contact with Westerners occurred on the Big Island, European ships began to show up in 1793 in what is now Honolulu Harbor. The sailors called this place "honorourou," translating to "fair harbor." The harbor, located adjacent to what became the Capitol District, provided much of the economic engine for the development of the city. Honolulu (then called Kou) was a small village in 1800. This village would soon become much more important. Credit the harbor as one of the focal stimuli for the growth and development of the city. Kamehameha shifted the capital of the Sandwich Islands to O`ahu in 1804 to 1805. At first, the center of government was in Waikiki. In 1810, the King moved to Honolulu. The locus of government changed over the next few decades, depending on where the reigning King was living. it was in 1845, during the reign of Kamehameha III, that the relocations stopped. Honolulu was firmly established as the seat of government for the Monarchy. What was needed were buildings in which to house the people running the government and as a site for official functions.


This 1856 painting provides some perspective on the development of Honolulu. What becomes the Capitol District is on the middle left (you can see Kawaiaha`o Church). The Fort (long since gone) is on the right. John Henry Burgess, “Queen Street, Honolulu� (1856) Honolulu Academy of Arts, Watercolor over graphite painting Source: Wikipedia


Honolulu’s development was influenced was influenced in many ways. A major foreign introduction was the coming of the Protestant missionaries. The first group sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions arrived in 1820. Eleven more missionary companies were sent by the ABC, the last in 1854. These missionaries, and their descendents, had a large and lasting influence. Other denominations sent missions to Hawai'i. The Catholics and Mormons were early arrivals, but their impact does not appear to be as great as that of the early Protestants. Several large churches anchor the sides of the Capitol District. One is the Protestant “stone church,” now known as Kawaiaha`o Church. The other is the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. Anthony; this became the “new” church for the Monarchy starting with the reign of Kamehameha IV. The first whaling ship came to Hawai'i in 1819. The number of visiting ships grew quickly; 100 ships were in Hawaiian ports in 1824. The peak year was 1846 when 736 whaling ships used the port. The ships and crews needed services for repair, provisioning and relaxation. This commerce contributed to the growth of Honolulu and influenced its character. It also led to conflicts, particularly between the sailors and the missionaries. Many of the old downtown buildings nearby the Capitol District were constructed to house the companies providing support to the whaling industry.


Capitol District Buildings Key to the sequence of buildings and monuments in the order of a suggested walk. Refer to the map on the next page for the locations.

A B C D E F G H I J K L

Mission Houses Mission Cemetery Kawaiaha`o Church Lunalilo Mausoleum Territorial Office Building Kapuiwa Hale Hale `Auhau Ali`iolani Hale Kamehameha Statue King KalÄ kaua Building Hawaiian Electric Building Coronation Pavilion

M N O P Q R S T U V W X

`Iolani Palace `Iolani Barracks LaniÄ kea No. 1 Capitol District Building Cathedral of St. Andrews Washington Place Hawai'i State Capitol Archives Building Sacred Mound Hawai'i State Library Honolulu Hale Municipal Annex


The Capitol District (light gray) and the locations of selected buildings (circles).


Present-day Honolulu The 2010 census of the urban core of Honolulu (the Honolulu CCD) recorded a population of nearly 400,000 people. The island-wide population was over 950,000 people. Over 40% of the people on O`ahu live in the urban area. Honolulu has become the center for finance, international business and military defense in the Pacific. It is also a popular tourist destination. Buildings are required to house the population to provide workplaces. When this happens in an area with limited land you get a high population density. By some measures (e.g., Brookings) this makes Honolulu the densest US city, with twice the density of the next densest city (Los Angeles). A law was enacted in 1972 (the Hawaii Capital District Ordinance) to “establish the Honolulu Civic Center as a historic, cultural, and scenic district to be called the ‘Hawaii Capital District’ and to provide for its protection, preservation, enhancement, orderly development and growth.” Walls of tall buildings provide a general outline of the boundaries of the district.


Google Earth, “Capitol District, Honolulu� (2013) The labels show many of the Capitol District buildings. Source: Google Earth


Mission Houses There are three Mission Houses on the property behind Kawaiaha`o Church. The oldest house on its original site is the 1821 Mission House (Hale LÄ `au). This is a prefab building that was created in Boston and shipped to Hawai'i for use as a home for Protestant missionaries and their visitors. The Chamberlain House (Ka Hale Kamalani) is more substantial. It was built in 1831 of coral blocks, like the nearby Kawaiaha`o Church. Levi Chamberlain was the secular agent for the mission. This is the second oldest house on an original site. Its primary use was use was to store supplies. The Printing Office (Ka Hale Pa`i) dates from 1841. It was created as a bedroom annex for the missionaries and their visitors. It is now used to show how printing was done by the missionaries and their Hawaiian collaborators. Printing was important as the missionaries created the first written documents in the Hawaiian language starting in 1822. One result was that Hawai'i soon became one of the most literate nations in the world.


The Mission Houses Complex. L: Mission House (Hale LÄ `au) (1821) C: Printing Office (1841) R: Chamberlain House (Ka Hale Kamalani) (1831)


Chamberlain House (Ka Hale Kamalani) (1831)


The Mission Houses complex (makai view)


Mission Cemetery (1823) The Mission Cemetery is the first Christian cemetery in Hawai'i. Many of the early missionaries and their descendants are buried here. Walking among the grave markers you note the names of many prominent families from Hawai'i. These are not just people from the distant past. Recently deceased relatives are buried here, too. Note that this is only a portion of the the Kawaiaha`o Church cemetery. There is a large area makai of the church in which hundreds of people are buried, mostly in unmarked graves.


Mission Cemetery behind Kawaiaha`o Church


Mission Cemetery behind Kawaiaha`o Church


Levi Chamberlin’s tombstone in the Mission Cemetery behind Kawaiaha`o Church


Kawaiaha`o Church (1842) The “stone church” is the fifth church built by the Protestant missionaries who arrived in Hawai'i starting in 1820. The earlier churches were thatched buildings. This church was built on what was once a barren, dusty plain that stretch out from the nascent city of Honolulu toward Diamond Head. The church site had a spring that was reserved for the high chiefs and chiefesses. It is said that one of these was chiefess Ha`o. This connection between the person and the water was referred to as the Ka Wai a Ha’o (the freshwater pool of Ha`o), hence the origin of the name of the church. The “stone church” represents a mixture of the New England style and the use of Hawaiian construction methods and materials. Its size reflects the need for a large enough space to accommodate the number of Christian converts. The foundation was dug down (by hand) to bedrock. Then the church’s walls were then erected using blocks carved from the coral reef. A total of some 14,000 of these more than 1,000 pound slabs were used. The construction took about five years.


Kawaiaha`o Church (1842)


The clock in the church’s tower was donated by King Kamehameha III. As a result, the clock is commonly referred to as the Kauikeaouli clock. It was installed in 1850 and still runs with the same clockworks. Note that there are two other large clock towers in, or near, the Capitol District. One is on Ali`iolani Hale (1874) and the other on Aloha Tower (1926). The tower itself underwent modification in about 1885 when a small steeple was removed and the tower was built up to its current height. The church has been impacted by termites, like many early buildings. There have also been modifications of the internal design. The result has been a series of renovations, often needed for preservation. The renovation in 1925 was significant as it returned the interior to the simplicity of its original New England design. The row of Royal Palms on the mauka side of the building was planted in 1899 as a memorial to Princess Kaiulani.


Kawaiaha`o Church (1842)


Lunalilo Mausoleum (1875) King Lunalilo was elected to his high office. This was unlike the previous monarchs who were elevated because they had been chosen by the previous king. Lunalilo’s election occurred because King Kamehameha V had died without naming a successor. The 1864 constitution called for the legislature to elect a new king from the living eligible royalty. William Charles Lunalilo was very popular and he won the election. Unfortunately, King Lunalilo’s reign (1873-1874) was very short; he died after only one year and twenty-five days in office. His dying words were that he wanted to be "entombed among (my) people, rather than the kings and chiefs" at the Royal Mausoleum. The result of his last wish is the Lunalilo Mausoleum on the grounds of the Kawaiaha`o Church. The Lunalilo Mausoleum is example of an early concrete block building.


Lunalilo Mausoleum (1874) in front of Kawaiaha`o Church


King Lunalilo’s was named after King William IV of England, a friend of the Hawaiian Royalty. Lunalilo was closely related to the Kamehameha family both through blood and marriage. His last name, Lunalilo, translates as as Luna (high) lilo (lost) which combined means "so high up as to be lost to sight." He was, indeed, part of the traditional Monarchy. King Kamehameha V had been working toward reestablishing more power for the Monarchy. In contrast, his successor, Liholiho, pushed the government in the direction of a democracy. There are actually two people buried in the Lunalilo Mausoleum. King Lunalio and his father, the high chief Charles Kana`ina (1801-1877). Lunalilo gave his property to establish Lunalilo Home, a place for poor, elderly and infirm Hawaiians. This was the first charitable trust started by an Hawaiian ali`i.


Lunalilo Mausoleum (1874) in front of Kawaiaha`o Church


Territorial Office Building (1926) This building is also known as "Kekuanao`a Hale." It has a two-story base that is topped with a four-story tower. It is a simple building, in contrast to the earlier government buildings such as the adjacent Ali`iolani Hale. The Territorial Office Building was designed for more routine government functions and these fit well with the relatively anonymous working spaces. The design elements are in the public spaces. The two-story circular lobby has Beaux Arts/Deco elements. There is a stained-glass dome with the Coat of Arms of the Territory of Hawai`i. The original design for this building was to be a single story (plus basement) with the later addition of a five story tower. The legislature pushed the construction so that the tower would be completed when the lower (now two stories) base was finished. The Superintendent of Public Works described this as "one of the finest structures in the Territory, both in appearance and utility. Every office in the building will be light and well ventilated and the basement will provide excellent storage space now much needed for the safe storage of Territorial records."


The Territorial Office Building (Kekuanao`a Hale) (1926)


The Territorial Office Building (Kekuanao`a Hale) (1926)


Kapuaiwa Hale (1884) This was the third building commissioned by King Kamehameha V to support the functions of the Monarchy's government. It was originally going to be an archive but it became a space for government offices. The building is named for Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, who became Kamehameha V in 1863. He didn’t name it for himself. The building was not completed until the reign of King KalÄ kaua. Concrete blocks were used to construct this two story structure. Today, this building serves, in part, a variety of judiciary functions. Originally, the Office of the Board of Health was located in this building. You can still see the name engraved above one entrance.


Kapuaiwa Hale (1884)


Hale `Auhau (1939) The translation of this name literally means “tax house.� This clearly identifies its original purpose. This three-story building looks like it has only two stories. This structure, which was constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration, carries the architectural tradition of the government buildings constructed in the 1920s. The location of Hale `Auhau on Queen Street means that it is a bit off the usual building-viewing trails. However, it is well worth a short detour. Looking across the street (mauka), you see the back of some of the more famous government structures: the Post Office, Ali`iolani Hale, and Kekuanao`a Hale. The current use of Hale `Auhau is the office of the State Attorney General.


Hale `Auhau (1939)


Ali`iolani Hale (1874) This is the first of the of the royal buildings in Honolulu. It was conceived as a royal palace for King Kamehameha V. However, the King recognized the growing need for government buildings and ordered the building to serve as a government office building instead of a palace. This building was used as the home for most executive departments, the legislature and courts until 1893. Many government functions moved to `Iolani Palace in 1894. In 1911, the entire interior of the building was gutted and rebuilt with a different floor plan to better serve the primary tenant, the court system. The building was expanded in 1942, and over the years, many of the court activities have moved to other buildings. Today, Ali`iolani Hale is home to the Hawai`i Supreme Court, a law library and the Judiciary History Center. Concrete blocks, a fairly new construction material, were used in this building. Recent inspections show that these blocks have proven to be very durable.


Ali`iolani Hale (1874) viewed from the Diamond Head side


Ali`iolani Hale (1874)


Ali`iolani Hale (1874)


Ali`iolani Hale (1874) from the rear (Queen St)


Kamehameha Statue (1883) The statue of Kamehameha I stands in front of Ali`iolani Hale. This iconic tribute to Hawai`i's first ruler was placed in this prominent location in 1883. King Kalākaua unveiled this statue on February 14, two days after his coronation ceremony. This is a very popular site for photography. There is almost always someone taking a picture at this spot. There are lots of group shots and, equally often, a person or two taking a selfie. The reverence for this statue shown today is in contrast to the period around 1916 when there was considerable vandalism and damage to the statue. In addition, the grounds around Ali`iolani Hale, including the grass, trees, walkways and roads, were in great disrepair. In 1919 there was considerable renovation of the grounds with the culling of trees (making more room for the banyan trees to grow), the addition of concrete sidewalks, road restoration and pavement additions. You can witness today’s respect for King Kamehameha I each year during the celebration of the King’s birthday when the statue is carefully draped with Plumeria and Maile lei.


Kamehameha I statue (1883) in front of Ali`iolani Hale (1874)


Kamehameha I Statue draped in lei in celebration of Kamehameha Day.


King David Kalakaua Building (1922) There are two signs on the face of this building. One identifies the building as the United States Post Office, Custom House and Court House. The other sign calls it the King David Kalākaua Building. This structure, which was expanded in 1929, originally held offices for the US federal government. The building was sold to the State of Hawai`i in 2003. All of the federal offices, except the Post Office, were moved to the then new Prince Kūhiō Federal Building. The state then renamed the building the King David Kalākaua Building after the last king of the Hawaiian Monarchy. The new name is fitting as King Kalākaua was once Honolulu's postmaster (1863-1865). Besides the Post Office, the current tenant of the building is the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.


King David KalÄ kaua Building (1922)


King David KalÄ kaua Building (1922)


Courtyard at the front of the King David KalÄ kaua Building (1922)


The Post Office end of the King David KalÄ kaua Building (1922)


Hawaiian Electric Co. Building (1927) Lighting in Hawai'i in the 1870s was done with gas lamps. King KalÄ kaua was aware of the potential of electricity. He even met with Thomas Edison in New York in 1881. Five years after this meeting there was a demonstration of electric arc lights at `Iolani Palace. Electrical lighting was added to `Iolani Palace in 1886. This was the first royal residence in the world to get electricity. Electric street lights came in 1888 and a few homes and businesses were added a year later. Hawaiian Electric Company was formed by individuals who had serviced the generators which powered the early electrification. The Hawaiian Electric Building was designed by the same people who did the adjacent King David KalÄ kaua Building. The structure is steel framed with reinforced concrete. The design matches the government building constructed in the same era.


Hawaiian Electric Company Building (1927)


Coronation Pavilion (1883) King KalÄ kaua was given a formal, European-style coronation in 1883, nine years after he became King. This coronation took place in the Pavilion. The Pavilion was constructed in front of `Iolani Palace and was connected to the Palace steps by a walkway. The entire structure was elaborately covered with decorations. There was a nearby grandstand that provided seating for a large contingent of guests. The Pavilion was later moved to its current location. In 1919, funds were provided to replace the base of the old structure that was crumbling due to large ants (likely termites) and wood borers. The new structure, following the original architectural features, is made of reinforced concrete. The Pavilion now serves as a bandstand for the Royal Hawaiian Band. There are maintenance facilities under the bandstand.


The Coronation Pavilion (1883) near the front of `Iolani Palace


`Iolani Palace (1882) The original coral block and wood building at this site was called Hale Ali`i. It was built in 1844 and taken as the official palace in 1845, solidifying Honolulu as the center of the Kingdom. This was not used as a residence as it had no bedrooms; this was a building for official events. It had a throne room, reception room and a state dining room. This building served its official function through the reigns of Kamehameha III, IV and V. King Kamehameha V changed the name to `Iolani Palace in 1863. Like many wooden structures, the building eventually fell victim to termites and use. It was time for the building to be replaced. The government, now in the reign of King KalÄ kaua, funded a new structure to be built on the same site. This new building became the focal point of the architecture of the era. King KalÄ kaua had traveled extensively and he brought back ideas to incorporate in this building. He intended this to be a showcase for Hawaiian materials and Western innovation. The result is a structure with a steel skeleton that is covered by brick and stucco. Decorative elements are made of cast iron. The staircase is hand-carved using Hawaiian woods. The list of "firsts for a royal palace" include flush toilets and an electric light system. There were also intra-house telephones.


`Iolani Palace decorated in celebration of King David KalÄ kaua’s birthday


The Monarchy was overthrown in 1893. `Iolani Palace then became the capitol building for the Provisional Government, and later for the Republic and the Territory. Many Territorial government departments were located in this building until the construction of the Territorial Office Building was completed in 1926. During WW II, there was considerable modification of the interior with the addition of partitions and false ceilings. The floors and walls were painted Army green. Statehood was granted in 1959 and `Iolani Palace becamse the capitol for the State of Hawai'i. The dining and throne rooms were used as legislative chambers. The State government's use of the building lasted until the 1969 completion of the new capitol building. By then, the various uses and considerable neglect required that `Iolani Palace undergo considerable restoration. The building became a public museum in 1978 and, after a series of restorations, it has been returned to its former glory and it is now representative of the times when Hawai`i was ruled by a monarch.


`Iolani Palace decorated in celebration of King David KalÄ kaua’s birthday


`Iolani Barracks (1871) The Hawaiian name is Halekoa (house of warriors). There were about 80 members of the Royal Guard when this organization functioned for the Monarchy. A mutiny of the guard in 1873 resulted in Lunalilo disbanding this group. They were reconstituted by King KalÄ kaua. The Royal Guard was disbanded again in 1893 when the Monarchy was overthrown. The construction of the building is similar to Kawaiaha`o Church; 4,000 limestone blocks were used to build the walls. This structure was originally located near the site of the current State Capitol. It was moved to its current location in 1965.


The `Iolani Barracks (1871) on the Ewa side of `Iolani Palace


Laniakea (1927) This building is informally called the YWCA Building. It is located on Richards Street, mauka of the Hawaiian Electric Building and across the street from `Iolani Palace. A significant historical feature of this building is its design by Julia Morgan, the first female graduate of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. The construction is based on structural concrete. The design attempts to adapt to the demands of the local climate and to fit into the evolving local style. The goal of the YWCA has been to provide a safe place for women to meet and develop their skills. The changing nature of the YWCA programs, plus the need for ever modernization, has required considerable renewal of this structure while maintaining its external appearance. A unique feature of this building is its swimming pool.


Laniākea (1927)


No. 1 Capitol District Building (1928) This oddly named building sits on the site of the former "Hawaiian Hotel." The increase in visitors to Hawai`i during the reign of King Kamehameha V created the need for more hotels. The hotel was started in 1871 and completed the next year. The hotel was later converted into the Armed Forces YMCA but it was torn down due to termite damage in 1926. A new building, the "No. 1 Capitol District Building," was constructed on this site in 1928. This eventually came to house the Hawai`i State Art Museum and the offices of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.


No. 1 Capitol District Building (1928)


Cathedral Church of St. Andrews (1886) King Kamehameha III was a strong supporter of the protestant Kawaiaha`o Church. His successor, King Kamehameha IV and the queen consort, Queen Emma, became members of the Church of England. This denomination was not well established in Hawai'i. The King called for the construction of a church but he died (on the fest day of Saint Andrew) before the building could be started. His successor, King Kamehameha V, laid the cornerstone in 1867. The original plan called for a coral and lava building, similar to the construction of the other churches of the time. Queen Emma, on a trip to England, raised the funds for a different plan, one that was closer to the designs of other Church of England buildings. The pre-fabricated stones for the arches, windows and pillars were shipped as balast from England in 1867. Another shipment came in 1882. Beach stone was quarried in West O`ahu for the walls. The first service was held in the partially-completed building in 1886. Today, this church serves as the home of the Deanery of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i.


The Cathedral Church of St. Andrews (1867)


The Cathedral Church of St. Andrews (1867)


The interior of the Cathedral Church of St. Andrews (1886)


Washington Place (1847) This building began as the home of Captain John Dominis, an American trader. It was an elegant house that towered over the relatively barren landscape and neighboring thatched houses. There is a sad history to the home. Captain Dominis sailed to China to purchase furniture just before the house was completed. He disappeared at sea. Mary Dominis, now a widow, rented rooms to Anthony Ten Eycke. He christened the home in honor of the “great, the good, the illustrious Washington. King Kamehameha III commanded that this name be retained. Princess Lili`uokalani (later Queen Lili`uokalani) married the son of the captain and moved into the house in 1862. She lived there for 55 years. This home became the official residence of the Governor of Hawai'i in 1922, but only after considerable renovation and expansion. The original house didn’t even have an indoor bathroom. A new, nearby building was constructed as the Governor’s residence in 2008.


Washington Place (1847)


Hawai'i State Capitol Building (1962) The Capitol Building houses offices and chambers of the two houses of the legislature and the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The building has some symbolic architectural features: • • • • •

The Pacific Ocean is symbolized by the reflecting pool. The two legislative chambers are shaped like volcanoes. The decor in one is for the sun and the other for the moon. The large pillars resemble royal palm trees. There are eight pillars on the front and rear representing the eight main islands. There are other themes based on the number eight in the building. The open rotunda represents the sky.

The Capitol is distinctive for its openness, a quality that reflects the open character of Hawaiian society. The underground parking garage allows a ground-level surrounding space that is not covered with cars. This contributes to the overall park-like feeling of the area.


Hawai'i State Capitol (1963) viewed from the mauka (Beretania St.) side


Hawai'i State Capitol (1963) viewed from the Ewa (Richards St.) side


Hawai'i State Capitol (1963) interior rotunda


Hawai'i State Capitol (1963) viewed from the makai (`Iolani Palace) side


Territorial Archives Building (1906) This was the first building in the US constructed for the sole purpose of storing public records. It functioned as the archive for the records from the Monarchy, Republic and Territorial governments until 1953 when a new building was completed to serve this function. The building was restored in 1987 after the construction of a new archive building. It is easy to overlook the key role of the archives in preserving the information critical to the operation of government. Today we easily make copies of records and store them in different places for security and convenience. We have the technology to do this. Remember that before copying machines and electronic records there was little, if any, redundancy. The story of the archives is not just about buildings. There are many heroic accounts of archivists going to extraordinary lengths to protect the records during periods of tumult (e.g., the 1843 Paulet affair) and war (e.g., the worry of a World War II bombing or invasion). Many fireproof storage areas, in addition to the Archives Building, were added to other government buildings through the years.


Territorial Archives Building viewed from the mauka side


`Iolani Palace Sacred Mound (1825) King Kamehameha II and his wife Queen Consort Kamト[alu died in England in 1825. Their bodies were returned to Hawai`i and were buried in a newly constructed tomb on the grounds of what would become `Iolani Palace. The location of this tomb was on the ancient site of the burials of ali`i nobles, known as Pohukaina. This tomb continued as the burial site of many high-ranking people until 1865. A new mausoleum in Nu`uanu Valley resulted in the removal of more than a dozen coffins and their transfer to this new memorial facility. The burial remains of many people remained in the original tomb, the adjacent land, and, it is thought, in the underground caves in this area. This important site began to show decay due to neglect. In 1930, the site was rehabilitated and marked with a fence. This sacred area is kapu (i.e., do not enter).


`Iolani Palace Sacred Mound viewed from the mauka side


Hawai'i State Library (1913) The Hawai`i State Library building was financed, in part, by Andrew Carnegie. It is one of 2,509 public library building supported by this philanthropist. One of the innovations in Carnegie libraries was the use of open stacks (instead of a staff member delivering a book). Strong public support, including local financing, was requirement for obtaining Carnegie funds. Today, the Hawai`i State Library building serves as the seat of the State Public Library system. This is the only statewide public library system in the US. It is also one of the largest library systems in the US with holdings of over 3 million books.


Hawai'i State Library (1913)


Honolulu Hale (1928) This building was originally called the Honolulu Municipal Building. It took many years to go from recognizing the need for a building to actually constructing a place to house the new government of the City and County of Honolulu. From 1900 to 1909 there had been a County of O`ahu, but this was dissolved in favor of a City and County system. The building reflects the architectural style popular at the time. There is a large interior courtyard, large staircases and an open ceiling. The building was expanded in 1951 with the addition of two, three-story wings.


Honolulu Hale (1929)


Municipal Building Annex (1915) The Mission Memorial Building is on King Street and the Auditorium is behind it. These buildings are the original members of what is now known as the Municipal Building Annex. These structures were built as the headquarters of the Hawai`i Evangelical Association (HEA). HEA members were the descendents of Hawai`i's first American Protestant missionaries. The buildings were designed to archive the records of the early Protestant missionaries. This general site was also the home of the Kawaiaha`o Seminary and the Honolulu Mission Printing Office. The Printing Office is where the first Hawaiian language bible was printed. A third building was added to this complex in 1930. It functioned as the Christian Education building. It is now the Municipal Reference and Records Center. The city's need for more office space resulted in the purchase of the HEA buildings in 1945. The Auditorium building was renovated in 2004, converting it back to an auditorium. The city also uses these buildings for the Customer Services Department, Neighborhood Commission Office and Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts.


Mission Memorial Building (1915)


Mission Memorial Building (1915)


Mission Memorial Auditorium (1915)


Municipal Reference and Records Center (1930)


Dates relevant to the Hawaiian Monarchy Monarch

Born

Died

Reign

Notes

King Kamehameha I

1750s 1819 1810-1819

Kamehameha the Great

Queen Ka`ahumanu

1772

1832 1823-1832

As regent

King Kamehameha II

1797

1924 1819-1824

Liholiho

King Kamehameha III

1814

1854 1825-1854

Kauikeaouli

King Kamehameha IV

1834

1836 1855-1863

Alexander Liholiho

Queen Emma

1836

1885 1856-1863

Queen Consort

King Kamehameha V

1830

1872 1863-1872

Lot Kapuaiwa

King Lunaliho

1835

1874 1873-1874

William Charles Lunalilo

King KalÄ kaua

1863

1891 1874-1891

David KalÄ kaua

Queen Kap`iolani

1834

1899 1874-1891

Queen Consort

Queen Lili`uokalani

1838

1917 1891-1893

Abdicated in 1895


Vegetation Notes Trees, and other plants, surround most of the historic buildings. Many of the trees have a story that parallels that of the building which they accompany. Some of the trees that you see in the Capitol District are not common; a few are on the city’s Exceptional Tree registry. Other trees are large and are found only in parklike settings, such as on the grounds around the government buildings. The notes here focus on the most common species found in the Capitol District. The descriptions provide some identification information and a brief background information, particularly regarding the date of importation of the species. First, it is important to set the temporal context for this discussion. The trees, like the buildings, are part of the history of the Capitol District.


The pre-contact Hawaiian cleared the lowlands and established remarkable agricultural system based on taro and sweet potatoes. The fields were irrigated by complex and efficient systems for water distribution. European contact brought horses, cattle, goats and sheep. These animals began to graze the landscape, primarily in the dry lowlands. Some of the traditional agriculture was replaced with grazing lands. The grazing was a major impact. Trees were introduced to Hawai'i for many reasons. Some were for practical reasons, such as providing food. Other trees were brought to enhance the beauty of the city. There were few permanent structures in Honolulu in 1818. Early maps record 135 thatched houses, the fort and few houses and docks.


Over the following years the streets, which were then mostly crooked and narrow, were widened and straightened. In 1845, when the capitol was established in Honolulu, Commander Wilkes reported that "The streets, if so they may be called, have no regularity as to width, and are ankle-deep in light dust and sand. Little pains are taken to keep them clear of offal; and in some places, offensive sink-holes strike the senses, in which are seen wallowing some old and corpulent hogs." The area Diamond Head (east) of what is now South Street was called "The Plains." It was a dry, dusty place. In those days you could see the entire distance from the Mission Houses to Punahou School. The growth of the Capitol District of Honolulu involved a combination of building the street infrastructure to support transportation and softening the sunlight by providing an extensive tree canopy.


Notable Plants Coconut Palm. The Coconut Palm tree (Cocos nucifera), called niu in Hawaiian, is generally thought to be a Polynesian introduction. This plant, along with several dozen other species, were carried to Hawai'i on the voyaging canoes. There was good reason for transporting these trees; they provide many useful products. These uses include food, oil, water, building and craft materials, cordage, thatch, and other items. There may be no other plant that is so versatile in contributing to people’s needs. Besides their many practical uses, Coconut Palms are robust. They remain standing after the strongest winds have blown. Coconut Palms are so common and distinctive that they are, in many ways, emblematic of Hawai'i. Ti plant. Ti (Cordyline fruticosa), called Kč in Hawaiian, is also a Polynesian introduction. Ti are sacred plants and convey high rank and divine power. You see Ti planted around buildings in order to ward off evil spirits. Ti plants have many practical uses. The leaves are used to wrap food (for cooking and transport) and they function as a plate. Hawaiians ate the cooked stems. These are just of few of the many practical and spiritual uses.


Three exceptionally tall Coconut Palms (Cocos nucifera) in front of the Territorial Office Building.

Several Ti plants (Cordyline fructosa) next to the Lunalilo Mausoleum.


Kiawe. The Kiawe tree (Prosopis pallida) was one of the early introductions by Westerners. This species came as a seed in 1828. It was planted on Fort Street next to the Catholic Church. (This tree lived until 1919 and a stump of the original is on display.) Fruits were first seen on the original tree in 1832 and by 1840, Kiawe trees were the principal shade trees in Honolulu. Cattle and horses ate the seed pods and spread the seeds through the mostly treeless city. You can find a large Kiawe tree just makai of the front of Kawaiaha`o Church. While this tree was not in an 1855 photo, it soon appeared in other documents which testify to its age.


This Kiawe tree (Prosopis pallida) near the front steps of Kawaiaha`o Church is perhaps the oldest living individual of this species in Honolulu.


Monkeypod. The Monkeypod tree (Albizia saman) is sometimes called the raintree. These trees have a large, dome-shaped canopy that is supported by a massive trunk and stout limbs. This species was brought to Hawai'i in 1847 as two seeds. One seed went to Kaua`i and the other was kept in Honolulu where it was planted at the corner of Bishop and Hotel Streets. These distinctive trees now line the streets and fill large lawns throughout the Capitol District. Perhaps the best display is the near continuous planting along Punchbowl street.


A huge, dome-canopy Shower Tree (Albizia saman) in front of `Iolani Palace.


Indian Banyan. The Indian Banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis) form dense canopies and develop a massive aerial prop-root system. The aerial roots eventually reach the ground and develop so that the aboveground roots resemble the trunk of the original tree. This species came to Hawai'i in 1873 as a gift of missionaries from India. The first trees were planted by William Smith at Lahina, Maui, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Protestant mission to Lahina. The trees at `Iolani Palace were a gift from the Royalty of India to King KalÄ kaua. The trees were planted around 1882 by Queen Lili`oukalani at the rear of `Iolani Palace.


A large Indian Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) with its characteristic prop roots between the Territorial Office Building and Ali`iolani Hale.


Cuban Royal Palm. The stately Cuban Royal Palm (Roystonea regia) was brought in 1850 by William Hillebrand. Hillebrand, incidentally, brought a great many trees over a period of about twenty years. Some of the originals are found at Foster Garden (once his home) and on the grounds of Queen’s Medical Center (where he was the physician). You can see Cuban Royal Palms alongside many buildings, including Kawaiaha`o Church and Ali`iolani Hale, and on the grounds of `Iolani Palace. These palms once surrounded the King Kamehameha I statue but a prank in 1967 resulted in some of them being cut down. It was decided that the statue looked better without the trees so the statue was realigned, new grass was planted and a proper sprinkler and lighting system was installed. There are still nearly a dozen of these trees in the vicinity of the Kamehameha statue. Royal Poinciana. The Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) is also called the Flame Tree. This is another Hillebrand introduction, most likely in 1865 or 1866. This was a popular street tree before 1950. This species is noted for having nearly year-around bright red or scarlet flowers.


Several of the nearly one dozen regal Cuban Royal Palms (Roystonea regia) in front of Ali`iolani Hale.

A crowded Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) with a few flowers in front of the Hawai'i State Library.


Plumeria. Plumera flowers (Plumeria rubra) are an iconic symbol of Hawaiian culture as they are often strung into lei. These trees are frequently seen in Hawai'i as they have a long-lasting crop and require little maintenance. Hillebrand brought this species to Hawai'i in 1860. Additional hybrids were brought in the early 1990s. Many hybrids have been developed locally. There are a number of Plumeria trees scattered throughout the Capitol District. In particular, look for these trees around the Territorial Office Building, on the makai side of Hale `Auhau, and around the cemetery on the makai side of Kawaiaha`o Church. The original tree is found in nearby Foster Garden. Rainbow Shower Trees. The Rainbow Shower Tree (Cassia x nealiae) is a hybrid between the Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula) and the Pink and White Shower Tree (Cassia javanica). This is a “well behaved” tree as it is a sterile hybrid and doesn’t produce seed pods (which could be a nuisance). This hybrid was discovered in 1918; other hybridizations followed and there were many plantings in subsequent years. The “Wihelmina Tenney” cultivar was designated as the official tree of Honolulu in 1965. The original of this cultivar is growing in Foster Garden.


This old Plumeria tree (Plumeria rubra) with a gnarled trunk is in the cemetery alongside Kawaiaha`o Church. It will soon drop its leaves and then become fully covered with flowers. This Rainbow Shower Tree (Cassia x nealiae) found behind Honolulu Hale was planted by mayor Frank Fasi.

On Viewing Some Old Buildings in Honolulu  

This selection of 24 buildings and monuments is from Honolulu's Capitol District. They are discussed and illustrated. The order suggests a c...

On Viewing Some Old Buildings in Honolulu  

This selection of 24 buildings and monuments is from Honolulu's Capitol District. They are discussed and illustrated. The order suggests a c...