The wood-framed Mission House, built in 1821, was one of the first wood-framed buildings built in Hawai‘i; it is now the oldest in Hawai‘i. It recently celebrated its 200th birthday.
The frame house stands on the grounds of the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives, near Kawaiahaʻo Church on the makai side of King Street.
The timbers of Maine white pine were cut and fitted in Boston in 1819 and came around the Horn on the brig Thaddeus with the first mission company in April 1820, arriving first in Kona. The frame of the house arrived in Honolulu on Christmas morning of that year on board the ship Tartar.
Since the lumber for this New England plan type was actually pre-cut prior to shipment, it could also be considered in a broad sense a very early example of prefabrication.
Architecturally, it has a simple and straight-forward design; the relatively low ceilings, and basement are strong evidence of its New England concept, foreign to the temperate climate of Honolulu.
It has two stories plus a basement and measures about 40-feet in length and 24-feet in width, excluding the kitchen wing (which extends the basic rectangular plan on the right rear (Ewa-makai) by about 20-feet.) The overall height is just over 23½ feet.
The first floor (which has been altered by both additions and demolition) consists of two rooms across the front. A smaller room and hall are located behind the front room on the left. The second floor consists essentially of two large rooms separated by a stair-hall.
The foundation wall is about a foot thick, except on the Waikīkī side where it becomes an average of almost 2-feet (where a now-demolished wing once stood.)
The basement walls are adobe brick set in a mud mortar. The basement consists of one room on the left (Waikīkī) and a larger space on the right.
Basement access is by an exterior coral stair on both the front and rear and an interior concrete stair leading down from the kitchen. All walls are plastered, the floors are brick and the ceiling exposed wood.
The Frame House was used as a communal home by many missionary families who shared it with island visitors and boarders.
It served as a residence for various missionaries, including Hiram Bingham, Gerrit Parmele Judd and Elisha Loomis.
In 1904, several contractors were called in to examine the building which was found to be so badly eaten by insects it was considered beyond repair. After considerable study extensive repairs were undertaken to restore the house to its original appearance.
In 1925, the premises were again inspected and again extensive insect damage was found. By 1935, the house was completely renovated and restored.
Since 1935, various minor repairs such as repainting and some plastering have been undertaken.
Today the frame house is maintained by the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society as a memorial to the early missionary effort in the Hawaiian Islands.
Furniture and other articles of the first mission families are displayed in the house, together with photographs of the men and women who lived and worked there.
Guided tours of the house and other parts of the historic site are offered Tuesday through Saturday, starting on the hour every hour from 11 am with the last tour beginning at 3 pm.
Nominal fees include: $20 General; $15 Kama‘aina, Senior Citizens (55+) & Military; $10 and Students (age 6 to College w/ID). Kama‘aina Saturday (last Saturday of the Month) 50% off admission for residents. (Reservations for groups of 10 or more are required.)