When the seat of government was being established in Lāhainā in the 1830s, Hale Piula (iron roofed house,) a large two-story stone building, was built for Kamehameha III to serve as his royal palace.
But, by 1843, the decision was made to permanently place a palace in Honolulu; Hale Piula was then used as a courthouse, until it was destroyed by wind in 1858 – its stones were used to rebuild a courthouse on Wharf Street.
In Honolulu, Kekūanāo‘a (father of two kings, Kamehameha IV and V) was building a house for his daughter (Princess Victoria Kamāmalu.)
The original one story coral block and wooden building called Hanailoia was built in July 1844 on the grounds of the present ‘Iolani Palace.
But, in 1845 Kamehameha III took possession of it as his Palace; from then on, Honolulu remained the official seat of government in Hawai‘i.
At the time when Kekūanāo‘a erected the old Palace, the grounds were not so spacious as they are at present. On the western corner was Kekūanaō‘a’s house, which he had named Hali‘imaile.
Kekauluohi, a premier, erected her house in the vicinity. When John Young was premier, he built and lived in Kīna‘u Hale. Also, on the premises was Pohukaina.
The site of the Palace was once a section of the important heiau (temple,) Ka‘ahaimauli; other heiau were also in the vicinity of the Palace, including Kanela‘au and Mana.
The Palace was used mainly of official events and the structure had mainly offices and reception areas, since smaller buildings on the grounds served as residences for the rulers and their court; it was only one-third the floor area of the present Palace.
Kamehameha III built a home next door (on the western side of the present grounds, near the Kīna‘u gate, opening onto Richards Street;) he called the house “Hoihoikea,” (two authors spell it this way – it may have been spelled Hoihoiea) in honor of his restoration after the Paulet Affair of 1843. (Taylor and Judd)
(In 1843, Paulet had raised the British flag and issued a proclamation annexing Hawai‘i to the British Crown. This event became known as the Paulet Affair. Queen Victoria sent Rear Admiral Richard Thomas to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom. That day is now referred to as Ka La Hoʻihoʻi Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day.)
“Hoihoikea” was a large, old-fashioned, livable cottage erected on the grounds a little to the west and mauka side of the old Palace. This served as home to Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V: the Palace being used principally for state purposes. (Taylor)
The palace building was named Hale Ali‘i meaning (House of the Chiefs.)
During the reign of Kamehameha V, cabinet councils were frequently held there. This was where the council called the Constitutional Convention, the result of which was the abolition of the constitution of 1852 and the creation of a new one.
Hale Ali‘i was renamed ‘Iolani in 1863, at the request of King Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa.) The name “‘Iolani” was chosen by King Kamehameha V to honor his deceased brother, the former king, Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho ‘Iolani.)
“‘Io” is the Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and “lani” denotes heavenly, royal or exalted.
The Palace served as the official state structure for five Kings: Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V, Lunalilo and the first part of Kalākaua’s reign.
Theodore Heuck, who had earlier designed the new Mausoleum, designed a building called ‘Iolani Barracks, completed in 1871, to house the royal guards. Over time the various other houses on the grounds were removed and replaced with grass lawns.
Although the old palace was demolished in 1874, the name ʻIolani Palace was retained for the building that stands today.
The construction of the present ‘Iolani Palace began in 1879 and in 1882 ‘Iolani Palace was completed and furnished.