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Second Palace

King Kamehameha V envisioned a royal palace befitting of the sovereignty of a modern state. He commissioned the construction of  Ali’iōlani Hale to be the official palace of the Hawaiian monarchy. The building was constructed across the street from the original ʻIolani Palace structure. It was named after himself (his full name was Lot Kapuaiwa Kalanikapuapaikalaninui Aliʻiolani Kalanimakua) it means “House of the heavenly King”. At the time, Hawaiʻi sorely needed a government building, since the government buildings of the time were small and cramped. Ultimately, Aliʻiōlani Hale became an administrative building instead of a palace, housing the judiciary of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and various other ministries.

By the time David Kalākaua assumed the throne, the original ʻIolani Palace was in poor condition, suffering from ground termite damage. He ordered the old palace to be razed.

Kalākaua was the first monarch to travel around the world. While visiting Europe, he took note of the grand palaces owned by other monarchs. Like Kamehameha V, he dreamed of a royal palace befitting of the sovereignty of a modern state such as Hawaiʻi. He commissioned the construction a new ʻIolani Palace, directly across the street from Aliʻiōlani Hale, to become the official palace of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Thomas J. Baker designed the structure, Charles J. Wall added details, and architect Isaac Moore. The cornerstone was laid December 31, 1879. It was built of brick with concrete facing. The building was completed in November 1882 and cost over $340,000 — a vast fortune at the time. It measures about 140 feet (43 m) by 100 feet (30 m), and rises two stories over a raised basement to 54 feet (16 m) high. It has four corner towers and two in the center rising to 76 feet (23 m). On February 12, 1883 a formal European-style coronation ceremony was held, even though Kalākaua had reigned for 9 years. The coronation pavilion was later moved to the southwest corner of the grounds and converted to a bandstand for the Royal Hawaiian Band.

ʻIolani Palace features architecture seen nowhere else in the world. This unique style is known as American Florentine. On the first floor a grand hall faces a staircase of koa wood. Ornamental plaster decorates the interior. The throne room (southeast corner), the blue meeting room, and the dining room adjoin the hall. The blue room included a large 1848 portrait of King Louis Philippe of France and a koa wood piano where Liliʻuokalani played her compositions for guests. Upstairs are the private library and bedrooms of the Hawaiian monarchs. It had electricity and telephones even before the White House.

It served as the official residence of the Hawaiian monarch until the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Beside Liliʻuokalani, Queen Kapiʻolani and other royal retainers were evicted from the palace after the overthrow.

Upon the overthrow of the monarchy by the Committee of Safety in 1893, troops of the newly formed Provisional Government of Hawaiʻi took control of ʻIolani Palace. After a few months government offices moved in and it was renamed the “Executive Building” for the Republic of Hawaiʻi. Government officials carefully inventoried its contents and sold at public auctions whatever furniture or furnishings were not suitable for government operations. Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned for nine months in a small room on the upper floor after the second of the Wilcox rebellions in 1895. The quilt she made is still there. The trial was held in the former throne room.

When a proposed annexation treaty up for ratification, the Hawaiian Patriotic League held a protest rally at the palace on September 6, 1897. They gathered petition signatures in an effort to demonstrate the treaty did not have popular support. On August 12, 1898 US troops from the USS Philadelphia came ashore and raised the Flag of the United States at the palace to mark the annexation by the Newlands Resolution. The Queen and other Hawaiian nobles did not attend, staying at Washington Place instead. The building served as the capitol of the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the military headquarters during World War II, and the State of Hawaiʻi.During the government use of the palace, the second floor royal bedroom became the governor’s office, while the legislature occupied the entire first floor. The representatives met in the former throne room and the senate in the former dining room.

In 1930 the interior of ʻIolani Palace was remodeled, and wood framing replaced by steel and reinforced concrete. The name ʻIolani Palace was officially restored in 1935. During World War II, it served as the temporary headquarters for the military governor in charge of martial law in the Hawaiian Islands. Through more than 70 years as a functional but neglected government building, the Palace fell into disrepair. After Hawaii became a state, Governor John A. Burns began an effort to restore the palace in the 1960s. The first step was to move the former ʻIolani Barracks building from its original position northeast of the palace. It now serves as a visitors center for the palace.

ʻIolani Palace was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 29, 1962 and added as site 66000293 to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Oahu on October 15, 1966. Government offices vacated the Palace in 1969 and moved to the newly constructed Hawaii State Capitol building on the former barracks site. In preparation for restoration, the Junior League of Honolulu researched construction, furnishings, and palace lifestyle in nineteenth-century newspapers, photographs and archival manuscripts. Overseeing the restoration was The Friends of ʻIolani Palace, founded by Liliʻuokalani Kawānanakoa Morris, grand-niece of Queen Kapiʻolani. Two wooden additions were removed and the interior was restored based on original plans.

Through the efforts of acquisitions researchers and professional museum staff, and donations of individuals, many original Palace objects have been returned. Government grants and private donations funded reproduction of original fabrics and finishes to restore Palace rooms to their monarchy era appearance. ʻIolani Palace opened to the public in 1978 after structural restoration of the building was completed.  In the basement is a photographic display of the Palace, the Hawaiian crown jewels, orders and decorations given by the monarchs, and regalia worn by the high chiefs of the islands.

The grounds of ʻIolani Palace are managed by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources but the palace building itself is managed as a historical house museum by the Friends of ʻIolani Palace, a non-profit non-governmental organization. The birthdays of King Kalākaua (November 16) and Queen Kapiʻolani (December 28) are celebrated with ceremonies.




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