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, Blue Room and the Throne Room.
The second floor consists of the private suites – the King’s and Queen’s suites, Music Room, King’s Library, and the Imprisonment Room, where Queen Lili‘uokalani was held under house arrest for eight months in 1895, following a counter-revolution by royalists seeking to restore the Queen to power after the overthrow of 1893.
The Palace area was originally enclosed by an eight-foot high coral block wall with wooden gates. In 1887, work was requested to alter the Mauka, Makai and Richards Street Gateways of the wall surrounding the Royal Palace would be curved at the respective gates with double iron door (similar to the Likelike gate.)
Also intended were 2-story wooden guardhouses on each side of the four main gates. However, those were not built (the contract to construct them was cancelled in July 1887).
Then, Robert Wilcox and other revolutionaries broke into the grounds, set themselves up in the Palace Bungalow, and using the walls surrounding the grounds fired at approaching loyal troops.
After this, it was felt that the Palace no longer served as a bastion against invasion, and a decision was made to tear down the wall surrounding the grounds. In 1889, it was lowered to 3’6″. In 1892, it was topped with the present painted iron fence.
“Early this morning a gang of prisoners commenced to take down the Palace wall. Up to one o’clock this afternoon they had it down from the front gate on King Street to the corner of King and Richards Streets.”
“It is being taken down to within three feet six inches of the ground. The King suggested that an iron fence take its place, and that will be done. It is understood that the government has already sent for designs of ornamental fencing, and as soon as a design is selected the fence will be ordered. There is no doubt that the taking down of the wall will be a great improvement.” (Daily Bulletin, August 9, 1889)
Removal of this wall was met with great approval. In prior years newspapers had often recommended that the prison-like stone wall be removed. In tearing down the wall it was also felt that the grounds, being opened to public view, would be improved and would become the most beautiful in the city. (Fairfax)
New gate arrangements were made, as well. The gates before this time had been flush with the wall, but as part of the improvements, curved walls were built, recessing the gateways into the grounds. (Fairfax)
The four principal gates each display the Coat of Arms of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and have a distinctive name and purpose:
• Kauikeaouli – was named in honor of King Kamehameha III and used for ceremonial occasions (fronting King Street)
• Kīna’u – was named after the mother of Kings Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V and used by tradesmen (fronting Richards Street)
• Hakaleleponi – was named for Queen Kalama, consort of Kamehameha III and used by servants and retainers of the royal household (mauka – facing Capitol)
• Likelike – was given the name of Princess Likelike, sister to King Kalakaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani and reserved for private use by the royal family (facing State Library)
But those are not the only gates onto the Palace grounds – a smaller 5th gate is located on the mauka-Ewa wall (fronting on Palace Walk, just mauka of the Barracks. While other gates had general ‘assignments’ of who would enter, the 5th gate was initially made for a single person.
“On my accession to the throne my husband (John Owen Dominis) had been made prince consort, and after my brother’s burial I had proposed to him that he should move to the palace …”
“… but in his feeble health he dreaded the long stairs there, which he would be obliged to climb, so I proposed to have the bungalow put in repair, and that the entire house should be placed at his service.”
“With this proposition he was much pleased, and hopefully looked forward to the time when, recovering from his illness, he would be able to take possession of his new home.”
“He asked that there might be a small gate opened near the bungalow, so that he might easily come and go without being obliged to go through the form of offering to the sentry the password required for entrance by the front gate.”
“His wish was immediately granted, and instructions given to the Minister of the Interior to that effect. The bungalow was handsomely fitted up, and all things were made ready for his occupation; but owing to his continued and increasing ill-health he never moved into it.” (Lili‘uokalani) (There is another gate at the corner of King and Richards.)