The history of Hawaii is fascinating for visitors who can pry themselves away from the beaches and the warm waters of Hawaii.
From the first missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in 1820, and their successors, the Victorian settlers, remnants of their important influences on these isolated islands, and their connections to Hawaiian life, are preserved in several Historic House Museums.
There are also Royal residences that are preserved -the homes where various members of the Hawaiian royalty lived -as they tried to keep their beloved islands independent of outside influences, while establishing their country on the world stage.
And there are also historic buildings preserved as museums. The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is operated as an informative exhibit building within the former 1902 Superintendent’s residence.
A taste of those historic buildings is in this Newsletter. If you go to Hawaii on holiday or for work, a visit to these historic sites will enrich your appreciation of this paradise of the Pacific. Surprisingly, there is no central body charged with preserving these important sites.
We have to thank several worthy organizations – relying heavily on volunteers -for preserving this important history for us.
The Mission Houses Museum, Honolulu, Oahu
The Frame House, seen at left in the photograph above, dates from c1821. It was pre-cut in New England and shipped around Cape Horn to be assembled in Hawaii by the missionaries.
You can explore the interiors of the buildings at the Museum with a guide, see the furnished rooms and learn about the life of the earliest European settlers to these remote islands.
The museum houses many original artifacts – from clothing to furniture, and personal items as sewing kits, dolls, journals and early watercolours.
A visit to this Museum in downtown Honolulu, close to Iolani Palace and other important historic buildings, is recommended to appreciate the contributions of the early missionaries to Hawaii’s history.
On June 1, 1830, Levi Chamberlain recorded the following entry in his journal:
“ Walked down to the sea where the natives were cutting the coral stone for my building. The coral forms the surface of the whole flats; it is in thicknesses from three to four inches to about twelve inches; the natives cut it the right width and pry it up with levers. The work of getting it resembles cutting up the surface of a pond frozen over.”
Chamberlain House is, not surprisingly, Georgian in design. Many Colonial buildings from this time period, whether in Canada, the United States (where Georgian is known as ‘Federal’) or in Hawaii, are similar in massing and form.
The Mission Houses Museum is owned and maintained by the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, whose members are direct descendants of the Mikanele (the Hawaiian’s name for the missionaries) who arrived in Hawaii between 1820 and 1863.
For more information about the Mission Houses Museum, please see:
The Bailey House Museum, Wailuku, Maui
Set on the windward side of Maui, in the historic town of Wailuku, is another Missionary House Museum. Built in the 1830’s of stone and adobe on the site of the Royal compound of Kahekili, the last ruling chief of Maui, the Bailey House Museum now houses a remarkable collection of early Hawaiian artifacts and a collection of paintings of early Hawaii.
The lush garden showcases both native Hawaiian and missionary-era plantings, which thrive in the wetter landscape of this part of Maui, and form a lovely setting for the buildings of the Museum.
Inside the Bailey House are exhibits of furniture, paintings and early Hawaiian artifacts. Edward Bailey, who, with his family, lived here from 1847 to 1888, was the artist of the many paintings of early Hawaiian landscape and buildings you can see in the Museum. It is particularly pleasing to see the paintings in the house where they were painted.
The Bailey House Museum is operated by the Maui Historical Society.
For more information on the Bailey House Museum, please see: http://www.mauimuseum.org/
Baldwin House Museum, Lahaina, Maui
As an restful antidote to the myriad T-shirt and jewellery stores in the historic town of Lahaina, a visit to the Baldwin House Museum is recommended, just steps from Lahaina Harbour and the Pioneer Inn.
Even better, plan to visit the house on Friday evenings, when volunteers conduct tours of the house by candlelight, a particularly magical experience. For close-up inspection of the artifacts, museum visitors are handed small flashlights to illuminate dark corners.
The Baldwin House Museum was in near-derelict condition in the 1960’s, when the Lahaina Restoration Foundation took on the huge task of preserving and restoring the house.
The Foundation is active in promoting the preservation of other important sites in Lahaina. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation was established in 1962, and manages six museums, maintains historic sites and open spaces in Lahaina and provides on-going programming in keeping with our mission.
For more information on the Baldwin House, and the other museums, please see: http://www.lahainarestoration.org/
Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, Oahu
Queen Emma was the wife of Alexander Liholiho, known as King Kamahameha IV. She was born in 1836 and was known as a gracious and beautiful queen. She and her husband reigned together from 1856 to 1863, and Queen Emma established the first hospital in Hawaii, which has grown to today’s large and sophisticated ‘The Queen’s Medical Center’.
Queen Emma’s Summer Palace – known as ‘Hanaiakamalama’ – was built in 1848 in a green valley, high above Honolulu, which was a dry area with few trees in the 1800’s. The open verandahs and shuttered windows caught the cooling breezes. The house used to be reached only by horseback, but now visitors can visit by more comfortable air-conditioned City buses.
Inside are period rooms and many furnishings and historic artifacts. During their reign, Queen Emma and her husband, King Kamehameha IV established warm relations with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Inside the Palace are gifts from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to their good friends in Hawaii, including an ornate glass-fronted cabinet made in Berlin, and a silver container to be used at the christening of the couple’s son, the Prince of Hawaii. Before the christening could take place, and Queen Victoria could become the boy’s godparent, the Prince died of a fever at age four.
After the King’s death in 1863 Queen Emma travelled to London to raise money for an Anglican cathedral in Honolulu. She met Queen Victoria, and the by-then two widowed queens formed a lasting friendship.
The Daughters of Hawai’i was founded in 1903 by seven daughters of American Protestant missionaries. Born in Hawai`i, they were citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom before annexation, and foresaw the inevitable loss of much of the Hawaiian culture. They founded the organization
“to perpetuate the memory and spirit of old Hawai`i and of historic facts, and to preserve the nomenclature and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian language.”
The Daughters of Hawai’i also preserve another Royal residence on the island of Hawaii
– Hulihe’e Palace, which predates Queen Emma’s Palace being built in 1838.
For more information about Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, please see:
Washington Place, home of Queen Lili’kiloulani
Located just across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol Building (itself well worth a visit for all fans of mid-century design) stands Washington Place. Captain John Dominis, who died before the house was completed, built this elegant house in 1834. His son later married Queen Lili’uokalani.
When Washington Place was constructed, it was only one of a very few homes built in a foreign style, and it was situated in a rural area outside of Honolulu.
Queen Lili’uokalani became Queen of Hawaii in 1891, but the monarchy was overthrown by non-native businessmen in 1893. The Queen was arrested in this house, and imprisoned in ‘Iolani Palace for eight months. She later was released and allowed to once again live here. After her death in 1917, Washington Place became the official residence for the Governor of Hawaii in 1921.
Inside Washington Place are five large, main floor rooms that are open to view, with many historic furnishings and artifacts. Visitors are welcomed by knowledgeable guides and given a good understanding of the life of Queen Lili’uokalani.
For more information on the Queen’s life, read her book “Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen”. She gives a detailed personal history of her life and other members of Hawaiian Royalty, as well as the events and incidents surrounding the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. A fascinating read about a little-known part of American history.
More recently, a new residence for the Governor was constructed to the rear of the house, and Washington Place is now used for official receptions and tours. To apply for permission to tour the house you must phone the Governor’s office 48 hours in advance for an appointment to tour the house and to make sure the house is not previously booked for an official function.
Washington Place was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. It is preserved with both public and private funds. To inquire about visiting Washington Place, please call the Governor’s Office at (808) 586-0240.
For more information, please see: http://hawaii.gov/gov/washington_place/
‘Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Oahu
‘Iolani Palace is an imposing building set in its own grounds in the heart of Honolulu. It was the official residence of King Kalakaua and his successor Queen Lili’uokalani.
After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, ‘Iolani Palace was used for government offices and legislative halls for the U.S. territory of Hawaii. After 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state, a new State Capital Building was constructed, and the official offices were moved out of the old Palace.
‘Iolani Palace had been badly treated as government offices. The many balconies had been filled in with temporary offices, looking like industrial trailers. Inside floors were damaged, rooms divided, and interior details destroyed.
After extensive restoration, ‘Iolani Palace reopened to the public in 1978 as a historic house museum, as a tangible reminder of the Hawaiian monarchy.
The restoration of ‘Iolani Palace has been meticulous, and several rooms have been carefully refurnished. The curators are particularly searching for the original artifacts that were sold and dispersed after the government took over the Palace.
The Friends of ’Iolani Palace are searching for original furnishings so they can once again restore the Palace to its original splendor. A notice on the Palace website is below:
Worldwide Search for Missing Artifacts
Palace objects sold and dispersed at public auction have been recovered from 36 states and 4 foreign countries –from porcelain plates returned from Australia, and a table found in the Governor’s mansion in Iowa, to a chair in a local thrift store. The quest to find original Palace furnishings and artifacts continues. Many original furnishings are still missing.
If you think that you can help with the search, there is much more information regarding this search on the Palace website. Clues, photographs and Royal marks can be found at at: http://www.iolanipalace.org/index.php/history/palace-collections.html
Visitors are welcomed to the shady verandah on the north side of the Palace, where they are introduced to the history of the building and issued protective booties to cover their shoes to protect the floors inside the Palace.
The Palace had plumbing installed in 1880, and one of the first telephones in Hawaii was installed at the Palace in 1880.
Today, ‘Iolani Palace is preserved and operated by the “Friends of `Iolani Palace” organization, which supports, guides, and manages Palace activities, providing caring stewardship for this Hawaiian landmark and national treasure.
The Friends of ‘Iolani Palace currently administers the Palace under a lease with the State of Hawai`i.
For more information about ‘Iolani Palace and visiting it, please see:
The Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Maui
As sugar was the main reason for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, it is enlightening to visit a historic house which is now a museum on the history and production of sugar. On the island of Maui, across the street from Hawaii’s largest working sugar factory in the historic plantation town of Puunene, the Alexander and Baldwin company operates an award-winning Sugar Museum.
The Museum is a marvelous repository of information and exhibits about one of the most significant and influential periods in Maui’s history. Dedicated to preserving and presenting the history and heritage of Maui’s sugar industry, the 1,800-square-foot Museum not only charts the establishment and growth of the industry, but looks at sugar’s influence on the development of Maui’s water resources and rich multi-ethnic make-up, and features intriguing displays on the inner workings of a sugar mill.
It is intriguing to note that the company had its beginnings with missionaries.
In 1831, Dwight Baldwin (1798–1886) and Charlotte Fowler Baldwin were sent as medical missionaries to Lahaina. Reverend William Alexander and Mary McKinney Alexander arrived the following year in 1832.
The Baldwin missionary parents lived in the Baldwin House (now the Museum mentioned earlier in this article) in Lahaina.
The Alexander & Baldwin company was founded by their sons Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin as Samuel T Alexander & Co., in 1870. The two purchased 561 acres (2.3 km²) of land on the island of Maui on which they began to cultivate sugar cane.
The land the partners cultivated was semi-arid, not ideal for growing sugar cane, a crop that required much water. Samuel Alexander realized that miles away on the windward slopes of Haleakala mountain, rain was plentiful. Thus, he designed a 17-mile long irrigation ditch that diverted water from that part of Haleakala to their plantation. Work started on the ditch in 1876 and was completed two years later in 1878.
After the completion of the ditch, the company grew and was eventually renamed
Today, passengers in window seats on planes arriving at Maui’s Kahului Airport have a spectacular bird’s eye view of Maui’s most historically significant plant: sugar cane. Some 37,000 acres of this giant grass paint broad swatches of green across Maui’s lower volcanic slopes and sunny central isthmus, giving the island its lush, verdant look.
The Museum has six, mostly modern, exhibit rooms in the historic plantation superintendent’s house.
A visit to this museum adds an appreciation for yet another aspect of Hawaii’s history – one that was predominate from the 1890’s until the 1960’s, when tourism started to surpass sugar in importance for the State of Hawaii. The Sugar Museum is a worthwhile place to understand the workings of the sugar industry on Hawaii.
For more information on the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Please see:
From missionaries and settlers to Royalty to sugar, Hawaii has many facets to its history. A greater appreciation for this isolated group of islands can be had by visiting the historic sites of Hawaii. Thank you to the tireless volunteers that work to preserve Hawaii’s heritage. Enjoy. Aloha!