Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa was born in Pohukaina, O‘ahu on February 9, 1826, to High Chiefess Pauahi and High Chief Kekūanāo‘a.
The Princess was a descendant of senior royal lines on a member of both the Kamehameha Dynasty and Kalākaua Dynasty, and a great granddaughter of King Kamehameha I; her half-brother was Lot Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V.)
Her mother, Pauahi, died while giving birth to Ruth Keʻelikōlani, and was then cared for by Kamehameha’s wife, Ka‘ahumanu, who herself died six years later. The Princess was then sent to live with her father, Kekūanāoʻa, and her stepmother, Kīna‘u.
Despite the pressures to convert to Christianity, Keʻelikōlani saw value in traditional ways and retained many traditional religious practices.
Although she learned English among other subjects at the Chief’s Children’s School, she was a staunch supporter of the Hawaiian language and traditional cultural practices. People spoke to her only in Hawaiian.
She was a member of the Privy Council (1847,) the House of Nobles (1855-1857) and served as Governor of the island of Hawaiʻi (1855-1874.)
Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani inherited all of the substantial landholdings of the Kamehameha dynasty from her brother, Lot Kapuāiwa; she became the largest landowner in the islands.
She was godmother to Princess Kaʻiulani. At Kaʻiulani’s baptism, Ruth gifted 10-acres of her land in Waikīkī where Kaʻiulani’s father Archibald Cleghorn built the ʻĀinahau Estate.
Despite owning Huliheʻe Palace, a Western-style house in Kailua-Kona, she chose to live in a large, traditional grass home on the same oceanfront property.
It is interesting, therefore, that she chose to build Keōua Hale, a large, ornate mansion on her land in Honolulu.
Keōua Hale was a Victorian-style mansion, and the most expansive residence of the time; it was larger than ʻIolani Palace.
It followed the Second Empire architecture, or so-called French style of architecture, and was considered a classical Victorian-style mansion. The gas-lit interior of the mansion was celebrated for its ornate plaster work and frescoes.
Surrounded by extensive, well-kept gardens, it was characterized by mansard roof, broad lanais, from which lofty flights of steps led down into the gardens, and a large drawing-room upon the ceiling of which was emblazoned the Hawaiian coat of arms.
The house was completed in 1883; however, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani never lived in the palace. She became ill immediately after the house warming and birthday luau.
Her doctors recommended that she return to Huliheʻe, her Kailua-Kona residence, where they believed she would more quickly regain her health.
She received medical attention, but did not recover. On May 24, 1883, Keʻelikōlani died at the age of fifty-seven, in her traditional grass home in Kailua-Kona.
At her death, Keʻelikōlani’s will stated that she “give and bequeath forever to my beloved younger sister (cousin), Bernice Pauahi Bishop, all of my property, the real property and personal property from Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi, all of said property to be hers.” (about 353,000 acres)
This established the land-base endowment for Pauahi’s subsequent formation of Kamehameha Schools at her death. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop passed away a year later.
In 1908, the building was converted to Central Grammar School. The present buildings were opened in 1926. The school became a junior high school in 1928, an intermediate school in 1932, and a middle school in 1997. The site of Keōua Hale is now Central Middle School.