Prior to contact (1778,) Royal Centers served as the rulers’ residence and governing location. Aliʻi moved between several residences throughout the year; each served as his Royal Center and place of governance.
Typically such Royal Centers contained the ruler’s residence, residences of high chiefs, a major heiau (which became increasing larger in size in the AD 1600s-1700s,) other heiau and often a refuge area (puʻuhonua).
The Royal Centers were selected for their abundance of resources and recreation opportunities, with good surfing and canoe-landing sites being favored.
On August 21, 1959 Hawaiʻi became the 50th state.
Today, we reference the location of the governing seat as the ‘capital’ and official statehouse as its ‘capitol.’
The present Hawaiʻi capitol building opened in 1969. Prior to that time, from about 1893 to 1969, ʻIolani Palace served as the statehouse.
After the overthrow in 1893, the Provisional Government first established its offices in the Aliʻiolani Hale; after a few months, the governmental offices were transferred to ʻIolani Palace (that later building’s name was temporarily changed to the “Executive Building” – the name “ʻIolani Palace” was restored by the Legislature in 1935.) (NPS)
The former throne room had been used for sessions of the Territorial House of Representatives. The state dining room was used as the chamber of the Territorial Senate. The private apartment of Kalākaua and later Liliʻuokalani was used as the Governor’s office. (NPS)
The location of the present Capitol was selected in 1944. In 1959, an advisory committee was formed. They selected the Honolulu firm of Belt, Lemmon & Lo and the San Francisco firm of John Carl Warnecke & Associates to design the new state capitol.
Their design was approved by the Legislature in 1961; construction commenced in November 1965. The building opened on March 16, 1969, replacing the former statehouse, ʻIolani Palace.
To quote from an address given by Governor John A. Burns, “The open sea, the open sky, the open doorway, open arms and open hearts – these are the symbols of our Hawaiian heritage. In this great State Capitol there are no doors at the grand entrances which open toward the mountains and toward the sea. There is no roof or dome to separate its vast inner court from the heavens and from the same eternal stars which guided the first voyagers to the primeval beauty of these shores.”
“It is by means of the striking architecture of this new structure that Hawaii cries out to the nations of the Pacific and of the world, this message: We are a free people……we are an open society……we welcome all visitors to our island home. We invite all to watch our legislative deliberations; to study our administrative affairs; to see the examples of racial brotherhood in our rich cultures; to view our schools, churches, homes, businesses, our people, our children; to share in our burdens and our self-sorrows as well as our delights and our pleasures. We welcome you! E Komo Mai! Come In! The house is yours!”
The building is full of symbolism: the perimeter pool represents the ocean surrounding the islands; the 40-concrete columns are shaped like coconut trees; the conical chambers infer the volcanic origins of the Islands; and the open, airy central ground floor suggests the Islands’ open society and acceptance of our natural and cultural environment.
There are eight columns in the front and back of the building; groups of eight mini-columns on the balcony that surrounds the fourth floor; and eight panels on the doors leading to the Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s chambers – all symbolic of the eight main islands.
The Hawaiʻi State Capitol is a five-story building with an open central courtyard. According to the architects, “The center of the building, surrounded by a ring of columns, is a great entrance well open on all sides at ground level and reaching upward through four floors of open galleries to the crown canopy and the open sky. Visitors can walk directly into the spectators’ galleries overlooking the House and Senate chambers situated at ground level, and they can reach any of the upper floors by elevators.”
Caucus rooms, clerks’ and attorneys’ offices, a library, a public hearing room, and suite for the President are at the Chamber level. The three legislative office floors (2-4) are of similar design, with peripheral offices for the legislators.
The suites for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are on the uppermost floors, overlooking the sea on the outside and the courtyard on the inside. Public circulation on the upper floors is through lanais that overlook the court. Parking is provided in the basement.
The Capitol building is a structure of steel reinforced concrete and structural steel. The building is rectangular with dimensions of 360 feet x 270 feet (although it is often referred to as the “Square Building on Beretania.”) It is 100-feet high.
The image shows Hawaiʻi’s Capitol – lots of info here from NPS.