‘Iolani Palace was the official residence of both King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani. (‘Io is the Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and ‘lani’ denotes heavenly, royal or exalted.)
The cornerstone for ‘Iolani Palace was laid on December 31, 1879 with full Masonic rites. Construction was completed in 1882; in December of that year King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani took up residence in their new home.
The first floor consists of the public reception areas – the Grand Hall, State Dining Room, Throne Room and Blue Room (where informal audiences and small receptions took place) The second floor consists of the private suites – the King’s and Queen’s suites, Music Room and King’s Library.
“The apartments of the King and Queen occupied the rear of mauka side of the Palace on this floor. The King’s room which is on the Ewa side is 25 feet by 30 feet with dressing room and bath room, etc., opening from it. Adjoining is the library designed to be used also as a Privy Council chamber’.
“The Queen’s apartment is the same size as His Majesty’s and there are on the same side of the building, two guest chambers of about 23 feet. The rooms in the corner towers form agreeable additions to the apartments with which they communicate being entered directly from them.” (Pacoific Commercial Advertiser, September 24, 1881)
In 1895, Queen Lili‘uokalani was held under house arrest for eight months, following a failed counter-revolution by royalists seeking to restore the Queen to power after the overthrow of 1893.
After the overthrow of the monarchy, ‘Iolani Palace became the government headquarters (Executive Building) for the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory and State of Hawai‘i.
The palace was used for nearly three-quarters of a century as a government capitol building under the Provisional Government, the Republic of Hawai‘i, the Territory of Hawai‘i and the State of Hawai‘i – until the existing capitol building was completed in 1969.
It was during that time that the Palace served as a government office building, and for a while it also had a less that regal appearance.
The uses of the respective rooms changed. A major addition to the Palace (Executive Building) occurred in 1894. On April 26, 1894, a new vault for the treasury was put in the Blue Room.
The Finance Minister moved into the Blue room, and the dining room was taken over by the Minister of the Interior. Upstairs it was first planned that the President of the Executive would occupy the King’s bed chamber, with the Foreign Office moving into the old library and the Attorney General situated in the previous music room.
The Throne Room was converted into council chambers. The Waikiki side of the second floor was to be used for storing furniture. Some shuffling of uses occurred in the respective rooms.
Interior rooms were partitioned into office space and the exterior of the building was encrusted with many temporary wooden additions to increase the floor space required for the office personnel.
Little else was done to the Palace during the remaining years of the Republic. At the turn of the century, during 1900, the Territorial government took over control of Hawai‘i.
The legislature set aside a sum for alterations, repairs and improvements to the Territorial Capitol Building, and during the year just ended the Department has complete the work outlined in the plans for repairs and improvements.
This included the laying of ohia flooring throughout the entire building, reshingling the roof, painting of the exterior and the decoration of the interior of the building. Special care was given to the Governor’s office, the Senate Chamber, and the Throne Room.
Koa benches were placed in the corridors, the lanais were retiled, the old tile having broken or sagged in many places, and the building in general was completely renovated, including the installation of modern plumbing. An elevator. . . was installed.” (Public Works Report; Fairfax)
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 Kalakaua and later Lili‘uokalani was used as the Governor’s office. These formerly territorial functions were then moved to the new State Capitol in 1969.
The state government then vacated the Palace and plans were initiated an authentic restoration of the Palace to its appearance during the Hawaiian Monarchy, 1882-1893.
Click on the following link for a virtual tour of Iolani Palace: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=E9uDoFAP3SH