Theodore C Heuck, a German, arrived in the Islands on the British brigantine “Cheerful” January 20, 1850, after a long voyage from Australia.
Heuch was the first professional architect in Honolulu. Shortly after arrival, he ran an ad in the local paper directed “To Builders” and offered “his services to the people of Honolulu and respectfully solicits their patronage. Plans for stores, dwelling houses or public buildings, also artificial designs furnished with despatch and on moderate terms. Theo Heuck” (Polynesian, August 17, 1850)
Within a year, Heuck announced a partnership with Hermann von Holt, von Holt & Heuck, for the sale of general merchandise. “The new establishment, adjoining the Seamens’ Bethel, will be open on Saturday, the 12th instant, with a large assortment of goods, just received from Hamburg, ex brig “Lina” … which will be offered on reasonable terms.” (Polynesian, July 12, 1851)
It was ten years before Heuck’s first important building was put up in Honolulu. This was the Queen’s Hospital, erected at the foot of Punchbowl in 1860 – a two-story stone building with a portico across the front. It was well received. (Peterson)
“This success of this project is very gratifying. … The new edifice is very imposing and handsome … the whole affair will be highly creditable to the taste of the architect, Mr Heuck”. (The Friend, December 1, 1860) Heuck later designed the chapel at Mauna Ala, the Royal Mausoleum (1864.)
In 1866, King Kamehameha V looked to have a separate barracks building for the Royal Guard (prior to that time, they were quartered in Fort Kekūanāoʻa (Fort Honolulu, which used to be at the bottom of ‘Fort” Street.))
Prior to becoming a US territory, Hawaiʻi’s modern army consisted of a royal household guard and militia units. By the 1860s, the Hawaiian military had been reduced to the Royal Guard, a unit assigned to guard the sovereign.
They were also known as the Household Guard, Household Troops, Queen’s Guard, King’s Own and Queen’s Own – they guarded the king and queen and the treasury and participated in state occasions.
On March 4, 1866, Heuck submitted a drawing and verbal description of the proposed Barracks to Governor Dominis – a romantic betowered building of coral rock in the Victorian military style. (HHF, Peterson) In 1870, Heuck was contracted to design and build the barracks for the Royal Guard.
Originally completed in 1871, and looking like a medieval castle, about 4,000-coral blocks were cut from the reefs and another 2,350 were brought over from the Old Printing House to form 18-inch thick walls. The walls were plastered on the inside and the coral exposed on the exterior. The roof was wood framed and covered with Welsh slate shingles. (Historic Hawaii Foundation)
Heuck had proposed a building of 70 by 110 feet with an open central court of 30 by 40 feet. These dimensions were increased to 84 by 104 and 35 by 53-feet respectively. (HHF) Additions were later made to the original open rectangle.
Heuck’s design included archery parapets on the upper walkways, firing loops in the lower walls and towers, and an inner courtyard for roll call. The construction ran over budget and behind schedule (original estimate was just over $25,000.) (Kelley)
The open courtyard was surrounded by rooms once used by the guards as a mess hall, kitchen, dispensary, berth room and lockup.)
Halekoa was designed to berth between 86 to 125 soldiers depending on whether double or triple-tier bunks were used. In practice the size of the Royal Guard did not exceed 80 men at any time in the 1870s, 80s or 90s. (HHF)
When Heuck left Honolulu for Germany in 1874, he was given a special audience with the King, who conferred on him knighthood of the Order of Kamehameha I. On September 28 he sailed, never to return. Three years later he died in Hamburg. (Peterson)
The Barracks predated ʻIolani Palace (1882.) When the Place was later built, the Barracks was originally located mauka and Diamond Head of it.
In 1893, the Provisional government disbanded the Guard and used the Barracks for munitions storage. The Territorial government took it over in 1899 and used it for office and storage space. After renovations in 1920, it became a service club for about a decade.
In 1929, following another ‘sprucing-up,’ including a coat of white paint or plaster, various government offices occupied it until 1943 when plans were announced for a military museum.
The museum proposal bore no fruit; the building was repaired and renovated again in 1948 for offices for school administration and other government agencies, including the treasury department office use. (NPS)
Following Statehood, there were plans for the State’s new capitol building being considered. Architect John Carl Warnecke, son of a German-born father, was influential in the design and construction of the new capitol. (Warnecke also designed John F Kennedy’s grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, and lots of other things.)
However, Halekoa was in the way; the Barracks was condemned and, in 1962, abandoned. In 1964-65, to make room for the new capitol building, the coral shell of the old building was removed to a corner of the ʻIolani Palace grounds for eventual reconstruction.
This was accomplished by breaking out large sections of the walls. Then stone masons chipped out the original coral blocks and re-set them. Many were so badly deteriorated that they were unstable.
However, the stone in the ʻEwa wing (an addition to the original Barracks) was salvageable (they left that part out of the reconstruction, but used the material from it.) Today’s reconstruction bears only a general resemblance to the original structure. (NPS)
Several other older buildings in the area, including the large vaulted-roofed Armory and the remnant of the older Central Union Church on Beretania Street, facing the Queen’s former residence at Washington Place, were also demolished to make way for the capitol building.
The image shows the original Halekoa (ʻIolani Barracks and the drill shed next to it.) (HSA)