“On this spot … Ka‘ahumanu started her prayer meeting for women. Here the elder Hiram Bingham preached the first sermon ever delivered in this city from the text, “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people’ …”
“… and here, in 1838, Mr. Bingham with the chiefs and the people of the land broke ground for the foundations of the church.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1894)
The Reverend Hiram Bingham prepared plans for a stone building of two stories with cellar, galleries, pillars in front, and a bell tower. The final dimensions were 144 feet long by 78 feet wide, large enough to accommodate thousands.
“March 12th, 1839. Work on meeting house commenced. June 5th. Cornerstone of church laid.” (Judd Journal; Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 14, 1894)
“They went down six or seven feet and laid their foundations upon the coral rock. From this time on the place of building was the theater of constant activity.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1894)
“The cornerstone of the church was laid in the presence of a vast concourse of people. In a hole under the stone now deposited is a brass plate with some writing upon it. Dr. Judd’s book on anatomy, Brother Andrew’s on surveying, geometry navigation, etc., and an entire Bible. Also a map of the islands and one of Honolulu.” (Cooke Diary, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 14, 1894)
“The high chief Abner Paki furnished the corner stone which was laid in 1839. It was hewn out of the reef at Waianae and floated to Honolulu on a raft, some say on canoes.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1894)
“We then assembled in the meeting house (the grass one) and Brother Bingham preached from Hagai 1:11: ‘Go ye up to the mountains and bring timber, etc., etc.’ After the sermon Auhea (w.) said a few words, then Kekuanaoa and also the King Kamehameha III.” (Cooke Diary, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 14, 1894)
“July 8th, 1840. Having received the promise of a ‘mano’ (a mano is 10 x 40 equal to 400) or two of mamaki and 200 cattle from the King, I started on the 8th for Waialua to hire 100,000 shingles made.” (Judd Journal; Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 14, 1894)
“The ground was covered with great piles of stone. Lime kilns were burning day after day. Nearly seventy thousand cubic feet of stone were used in the building.”
“It was not an uncommon thing to see from five hundred to a thousand men at work. The stone for this vast edifice was hewn out of the reef between Honolulu and Waikiki. It was then drawn on trucks and sleds to its proper place. Men, horses and oxen were used in hauling the material.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1894)
“Most of the timber used in the roof and for the floor beams was cut in the mountains at Helemano, back of Waialua. It was dragged to the sea at Honouliuli and thence floated to Honolulu. Much of the lumber came from California and the northwest coast; boards, nails, sashes and glass from Boston.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1894)
“The whole basement story is excavated down to the coral rock, and the foundation walls are laid on that rock. The basement walls are 44 inches thick and about 12 feet high. … Above the basement, the walls were carried up 36 inches thick to the sills of the gallery windows, and thence 27 inches to the plates.”
“Rev. R. Armstrong succeeded (Hiram Bingham) as Pastor of the church, and under him it was completed and dedicated July 21, 1842 (before the steeple and gallery had been completed.)” The Friend, November 1885)
Rev. Mr. Bingham, designer of the church, returned to the US in 1840, while the building was yet incomplete. He had left for the continent on August 3, 1840, due to his wife, Sybil’s illness, hoping to recover and return; he never came back to see the finished church. (The Friend, November 1885)
In 1850 the town’s first clock, presented by the King, was installed in the Kawaiaha‘o tower, having come around the Horn from Boston. It cost $1,000.00 and commenced running January 10, 1851. The tower chock has continued in operation to this date, with only an occasional interruption.
The structure of 1842 resembled his original drawings except for the bell tower, which was topped by ‘an absurd wooden spire,’ blunt and without much visual attraction, looking for all the world like a lamp extinguisher. (HABS & NPS)
Kawaiaha‘o Church ordered an organ in 1867 to replace the melodion then in use. To prepare for its installation, the pulpit was moved forward some twenty or thirty feet to nearly the center of the auditorium, and a new choir loft built behind the pulpit. Music was under the leadership of Mrs Lydia Dominis (later Queen Lili‘uokalani) and Mrs Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
Pauahi died on October 16, 1884. Her will (Clause 13) states her desire that her trustees “provide first and chiefly a good education in the common English branches, and also instruction in morals and in such useful knowledge as may tend to make good and industrious men and women”. Kamehameha Schools was later formed.
But Pauahi’s will also provided funds to Kawaiaha‘o Church. “Eleventh. I give and bequeath the sum of Five thousand Dollars ($5000.) to be expended by my executors in repairs upon Kawaiaha‘o Church building in Honolulu, or in improvements upon the same.” (Bernice Pauahi Bishop Will)
The Bishop funds were used at Kawaiaha‘o to build up the tower with coral stone to give it the square tower (at its present height) and remove the pointed spire.
“The builders of the new section of the stone church tower have nearly completed its first square, and evidently in a substantial manner.” (Daily Honolulu Press, October 20, 1885) The November 11, 1885 issue or the Daily Honolulu Press noted, “The steeple of the Kawaiaha‘o church is finished.”