‘Iolani Palace (Io is the Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and ‘lani’ denotes heavenly, royal or exalted) was the official residence of both King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani.
Construction was completed in 1882; in December of that year King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani took up residence in their new home. The second floor had their private suites.
After the overthrow of the monarchy, ‘Iolani Palace became the government headquarters (Executive Building) for the Provisional Government, Republic, and then the Territory of Hawai‘i. The private apartment of Kalākaua, and later Liliʻuokalani, was used as the Governor’s office.
In 1904, after the appointment of Mr. Carter as Territorial governor, the office of the Governor was redecorated.
“The Governor’s office is being renovated so as to restore some of the old royal splendor. There is to be a touch of robin’s egg blue on the walls and the little crowns on the ceiling are to have their red insertions painted brighter.”
“It is even proposed to bring up the gilded chairs of state from the old throne room and set them around. Unhappily the throne itself has gone to the museum but it may be brought back for special occasions. When finished, the executive chamber of Hawaii will make that of the United States look like thirty cents.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 8, 1904)
“Ernest Parker, the talented young Hawaiian artist, has taken the supervision of the work of renovating the Governor’s office in the Capitol.”
“Already the walls and ceiling have received the first coat of tinting in robin’s egg blue, with the stucco work of the ceiling relieved in gold. The crowns with crimson velvet insertions in the ceiling have also been retouched and look gorgeous.”
“Acting Governor Atkinson is earnestly studying the question of furniture for the renovated executive chamber. It is his idea to make that the show room of the Capitol and, as part of the scheme, to transfer the gilded chairs from the old throne room, now the hall of the House of Representatives, to the Governor’s official apartment.”
“(M)ostly every visitor to Honolulu of any consequence calls on the Governor, and in Mr. Atkinson’s opinion the executive chamber ought to be the most impressive, in artistic appearance and elegant comfort, of any apartment in the building.”
“One of the last things Governor Carter spoke about, on leaving the Capitol before sailing for the mainland, was the proposed renovation of his office quarters.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 8, 1904)
Originally, the walls were described as being untinted. The Governor’s office, apparently, became quite famous as the Robin’s Egg Blue Chamber, and remained with this décor into the administration of Governor Frear.
“The ‘robin’s egg blue’ room at the Capitol which is the private room of Governor Carter has been surveyed by many a critical art eye relative to the hanging of oil paintings upon the walls, and yesterday results were apparent.”
“Lying on the floor were the big life-size portraits in oils of King Kaiakaua and Queen Liliuokalanl. These are to be hung on the mauka wall, one on other side of the entrance leading from the secretary’s chamber.”
“The other portraits to adorn the walls will be that of King Kamehameha I, which will hang just over the Governor’s desk. Another will be the fine portrait of Kamehameha IV. A portrait of Princess Kaiulani will also have a place in the chamber. The room may be called ‘the blue room.’” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 27, 1904)
“Although Carter no longer holds down the lid in the Robin’s Egg Blue Chamber, he is still very much in evidence around the Executive offices. Indeed, he is there most of the time.”
“With his coat off and attired in a shirt which was probably bought during his reign to match the color of the walls of the famous Robin’s Egg Blue, he spends nearly all day at the long table in the Secretary’s office working on his final report to the President.” (Evening Bulletin, February 26, 1907)
In 1910 the following account appears in a newspaper under the heading – “Historical Tint of Executive Mansion Vanishes into the Dim Past.”
“The famous robin’s-egg-blue chamber has faded into the past. The chamber is still there – but the robin’s-egg-blue is gone…..”
“That famous tint disappeared yesterday under the vigorous efforts of a gang of workmen who invaded the royal chamber and washed the color from the wall.”
“It had to go for when the Governor, immediately upon his return from his eastern trip, moved into the quarters heretofore occupied by the secretary of the Territory, and took with him the immense portraits of kings and queens of a bygone regime, a hideous fact was made apparent.”
“It was literally hideous.”
“The removal of the great portraits disclosed the shocking fact that only a part of the room was robin’s egg blue. The rest, that part hidden behind the canvases, was green and just imagine the combination of grass green and robin’s egg blue!”
“It actually hurt the eyes of Secretary Mott-Smith when he entered the chamber to take up his official abode. Mott-Smith shrieked in agony and called for men, workmen to relieve the hateful contrast. “
“They arrived in squads – and the colors began to fade. Now the room is white, the virgin color of the untinted plaster. But it is not to remain white. Mott-Smith is considering what tint shall be applied. …” (Hawaiian Gazette, January 10, 1910)