Princess Victoria Kawekiu I Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaʻiulani Cleghorn (commonly referred to as Princess Kaʻiulani) was born in Honolulu on October 16, 1875.
Princess Kaʻiulani’s mother was Princess Miriam Kapili Kekauluohi Likelike (sister of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani) and her father was Scottish businessman and horticulturist Archibald Scott Cleghorn, who later became Governor of Oʻahu.
Princess Kaʻiulani was the only child born to the Kalākaua dynasty; as such, she was the only direct heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
Kaʻiulani inherited 10-acres of land in Waikīkī from her godmother, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani. Originally called Auaukai, Likelike named it ʻĀinahau; Princess Kaʻiulani spent most of her life there.
The stream that flowed through ʻĀinahau and emptied into the ocean between the Moana and Royal Hawaiian Hotels (where the present Outrigger Hotel is located,) was called ʻApuakehau (the middle of three rivers that used to run through Waikīkī.)
The family built a two-story home on the estate. At first the home was used only as a country estate, but Princess Kaʻiulani’s family loved it so much, it soon became their full-time residence.
The home was furnished with two grand pianos, elaborate brocade chairs, gold and glass cabinets and fixtures. Also, there were various art collections displayed on the walls and rooms.
The Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson was a frequent guest and used to read passages of poetry to the young Princess under the banyan tree. He even composed a poem for her where he described her as his “island rose, light of heart and bright of face.”
Archibald Cleghorn had an avid interest in horticulture. He imported plants and flowers from all over the world and planted them at ʻĀinahau.
Plants on the estate included mango trees, teak, cinnamon, camphor trees, date palms and sago palms. Its ten acres were filled with gardens, three lily ponds, 500 coconut trees, 14 varieties of hibiscus and 8 kinds of mango trees.
Reportedly, the first banyan tree in Hawaii was planted on the grounds of ʻĀinahau. As many as fifty peacocks, favorites of the young Princess, were allowed to roam freely on the grounds.
“The ʻĀinahau, with its waving, coconut trees, stately palms and winding roads and paths, has always been known as one of the most beautiful and romantic spots in Honolulu.” (Honolulu Star-Bulleting, September 23, 1913)
While attending a wedding at Parker Ranch at Waimea on the Big Island, Kaʻiulani got caught in a cold Waimea rain while riding on horseback, she became ill; she and her family returned to O‘ahu.
After a two-month illness, Kaʻiulani died at ʻĀinahau on March 6, 1899, at age 23. It is said that the night she died, her peacocks screamed so loud that people could hear them miles away and knew that she had died. Miriam Likelike passed away at ʻĀinahau 12-years before Kaʻiulani.
“Cleghorn, who survived both Princess Miriam Likelike and their daughter, died only a few years ago (Cleghorn lived until 1910 and also passed away there).” (Gessler, The Step Ladder, October 1921)
“Mr. Cleghorn … felt that he held ʻĀinahau in a sort of trust, to preserve it for the memory of Kaʻiulani, and indirectly also of Likelike.” (Honolulu Star Bulletin, April 16, 1913)
“A bill to accept the fine gift passed the senate in 1913 but was killed in the house, and it was admitted at the time that some of the heirs under the will had joined in fighting against the acceptance bill.” (Honolulu Star-Bulleting, September 23, 1913)
“The deal by which the property was leased was completed yesterday. The name of the lessee is withheld at this time, but it was learned that local persons are interested in the project.”
“On the first of July the buildings already on the estate will be opened as a hotel. The buildings include one large structure, five cottages and one grass house. … The lease is made for a short period of time, with the privilege of extension. It includes the entire area of beautiful ʻĀinahau.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 21, 1913)
Mrs EH Lewis rented the property from the Cleghorn estate and operated the property as ʻĀinahau Hotel from 1913 to 1917.
There was an unfortunate later fire of the home, while occupied by William F Aldrich. He ran to the room where the gas heater stood and saw flames. Neighbors tried to help by beating them out with cloths.
A fire truck was summoned from Kaimukī, but the pin holding together the steering gear fell out and the truck crashed into a fence. By the time help arrived, the building could not be saved. (Cultural Surveys)
“With great difficulty the flames were prevented from spreading to adjacent buildings. Sparks were carried to the roof of the Moana Hotel by the high wind.” (Maui News, August 5, 1921)
“Historic ʻĀinahau, at Waikiki, was totally destroyed by fire August 2d (1921,) together with most of its furniture and fittings, on which $15,000 insurance was carried.” (Thrum)
“ʻĀinahau, home of the wide lanais and lofty palms, rendezvous of Honolulu society in the reign of King Kalākaua, and haunt of Robert Louis Stevenson in his Hawaiian days, is gone. “
“The age old coconut trees which surrounded the famous palace were torches of remembrance, flaming high into the tropic night long after ʻĀinahau had become only a ghost among its glowing embers, but today they are charred stumps around blackened ruins.” (Gessler, The Step Ladder, October 1921)
In the late-1920s, the dredging of the Ala Wai Canal dried up the streams and ponds on the ʻĀinahau estate. Today the Princess Kaʻiulani Hotel sits at the former driveway entrance to the ʻĀinahau Estate, across the street from Waikiki’s historic Moana Hotel, which opened in 1901.
In 1999, a statue of Princess Kaʻiulani was erected in a small triangle park (at the corner of Kūhiō Avenue and Kaʻiulani Avenue,) which also includes a bus stop, halau mound for performances, landscaping and walkway.
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