It became a favorite retreat for members of the Hawaiian royal family.
Huliheʻe Palace was constructed in 1838 by foreign seamen using lava rock, coral, koa and ōhi‘a timbers. It was initially the private residence of John Adams Kuakini (brother of Kaʻahumanu.)
Kuakini oversaw the construction of both Mokuaikaua Church and Hulihe‘e Palace and these landmarks once shared a similar architectural style with exposed stone – both are still standing, across the street from each other in Kailua-Kona.
After Kuakini’s death in 1844, the Palace passed to his adopted son, William Pitt Leleiohoku. Leleiohoku died a few months later, leaving Hulihe‘e to his wife, Princess Ruth Luka Ke‘elikōlani.
Princess Ruth also 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.
Kamehameha IV (Ruth’s half-brother, who had visited Huliheʻe as a student at the Royal School) and Queen Emma particularly enjoyed their time vacationing at Huliheʻe, and visited the palace many times with their son, Prince Albert.
Kamehameha IV signed a lease with Princess Ruth for Huliheʻe at $200 per year, with the agreement that additions and repairs made would be deducted from the rental. (Daughters of Hawaiʻi)
The King and Queen purchased the ahupuaʻa of Waiaha; in 1858 they moved to Kona for a 4-month stay. “On Tuesday afternoon last, at half-past 4 o’clock, their Majesties and Suit embarked on board of the schooner Maria, Capt F. Multeno, for Kona, Hawaiʻi …”
“… where they intend to reside for a few months; the dryness of the atmosphere and the salubrity of the climate in that district being unrivalled in the Pacific, and temptingly inviting as a contrast to the damp and chilly air pouring over Honolulu and vicinity, through the gorge of Nuʻuanu valley during the winter season.”
“Their Majesties were accompanied by the Prince of Hawaiʻi, the Princess Victoria, H. Ex. Gov. Kekuanaoa, Mesdames Rooke, Beckley; Dr. Rooke, Messrs. Hopkins, Webster and Nielson.”
“As the vessel cast off from the wharf, a royal salute was fired from the battery on Punch-bowl bill, and as she passed H. I. M’s ship Eurdice another Royal salute was fired and yards manned.” (Polynesian, September 18, 1858)
That visit was cut short with the untimely death of Queen Emma’s hānai father, Dr Rooke. “Our late townsman TCB Rooke Esq, died of apoplexy (unconsciousness or incapacity resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke,) at Kailua, Hawaiiʻ, on Sunday the 28th Nov. ult, at 1 o’clock pm.”
“He was attacked in the first instance at about 6 o’clock in the morning of the time day, when a messenger was instantly despatched for Dr. Herrick of South Kona, who arrived without loss of time and perceived at once that the patient was beyond recovery, and approved entirely of what had been done previous to his coming.” (Polynesian December 11, 1858)
Thomas Charles Byde Rooke, MD, died November 28, 1858, six months after the Prince of Hawaiʻi was born to Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. (Evening Bulletin, October 7, 1897)
In August 1873, shortly after being elected King, it became apparent that King Lunalilo was ill. At the urging of Princess Ruth and Queen Emma he went to Huliheʻe to recover.
Georges Phillipe Trousseau accompanied the King and stayed with Lunalilo at Huliheʻe Palace, from mid-November to the middle of January 1874. (Though not an official title, Trousseau served as royal physician.)
Lunalilo brought Henry Berger and the Royal Hawaiian Band to the palace throughout Christmas and the New Year to entertain the royalty during the holiday season.
After it became apparent that Lunalilo was not going to recover, and the royal party returned to Honolulu where Lunalilo died on February 3. (Greenwell)
Despite owning Huliheʻe Palace, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani chose to live in a large hale pili (traditional grass home) on the same oceanfront property.
For a home in Honolulu, she built Keōua Hale, a large, Victorian-style mansion, and the most expansive residence of the time; it was larger than ʻIolani Palace. (It was situated on what is now Central Middle School.)
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, 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 at Haleʻōlelo, her hale pili. Per her will, Huliheʻe Palace went to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (who died within a year of inheriting the palace.)