Lloyd Stone prepared an article (titled the same as this summary) in the April 1963 edition of the Hawaiian Historical Review. It is effectively an extensive timeline of people and events associated with the palace. All in the following is his article.
Iolani Palace is the only true royal palace under the American flag; a true palace in that, while other monarchies ruled areas which later evolved into the present United States, only Hawaii was a kingdom, a nation in its own right until it, too, became a part of America.
A history of Iolani is a history of Hawaii since the noble pile of masonry was built. From within its walls a king, a queen, a revolutionary hierarchy, a republic, a territory, and, finally, a state of the US have issued their commands.
At midnight on October 30, 1865, an event occurred which heralded the beginning of today’ s Iolani. The old one-story palace, similarly named, stood on the site of the present one, and in the deep of night from a vault within the grounds the removal of eighteen royal dead began.
Then a procession of black-swathed drays, mourners, towering kahili, kukui-nut torches accompanied King Kamehameha V and his father Kekuanaoa and scores of high chiefs, all bareheaded and afoot, as they wound their grieving way to the new royal mausoleum in Nuuanu.
Five years later, on September 25, 1871, the same king directed his minister of the interior to instruct the Hawaiian consul in Sydney, Australia, that …
“… it is the intention of this government to build a Royal Palace here … we have no architect … architects in northern countries would not appreciate our climate … but in Sydney, where the summer climate is very similar to ours, an architect might more likely be found to design an appropriate building …”
The palace was built, but never used as such. It became known as the “government building”, and in succeeding years gained its present name – the judiciary building.
The very different building that Honolulans call Iolani Palace today is of later vintage. This paper recalls many of the colorful events that make up its history.
June 3, 1874: Aboard the Mohango there arrived a fiercely-whiskered little German bandmaster, Henri Berger, whom Kamehameha had asked a brother rule, the Emperor of Prussia, to forward him. The little koppelmeister would direct the Royal Hawaiian Band for more than four decades at palace functions.
April 10, 1877: Princess Liliuokalani was proclaimed Heir Apparent.
June 29, 1876: Architect TJ Baker arrived from San Francisco. Almost three years elapsed, during which he designed and supervised the construction of other buildings, before his plans for the palace received any attention.
1878: On her way back from visiting friends at Maunawili, Princess Liliuokalani hummed into existence the most famous song of parting the world has ever known, Aloha Oe.
March 2, 1879: Baker received a letter from Minister of the Interior Samuel G. Wilder saying: “His Majesty King Kalakaua commands me to ask you to lay before this department your plans for a new Palace. If you will be good enough to call tomorrow before 12 M I shall be pleased to see you.”
August, 1879: Baker was appointed “architect and chief artificer” of the proposed palace, and work began on it.
November 14, 1879: Celso Moreno, Italian adventurer who within the next few months would exert tremendous influence over the king (especially in the matter of his coronation), arrived from Hong Kong.
November 19, 1879: Trouble broke out between Architect Baker and Minister Wilder, who wrote to the former: “I beg to call to your attention the fact that it is proper that you should file in this office duplicate or the original plans for the new palace … I need at once a list of flooring, lumber, etc …”.., 11 5
Baker replied: “I did not understand that you were to take my place as architect.”
December 10, 1879: Palace contractor Thomas complained: “I have laid the foundation out according to two different foundation plans, both being furnished by Baker, and yet the basement is not in conformity with either of his plans…”
To further requests of the minister, Baker insisted: “The Cabinet can not make me yield such plans of the building as I need retain”
December 14, 1879: The minister wrote Baker: “You have insulted His Majesty and the Cabinet… Where are the plans?”
December 16, 1879: Architect Baker replied: “My plans can be seen and examined at all times during business hours at my rooms.”
December 31, 1879: The forty-fifth birthday of King Kalakaua’s Queen, Kapiolani, was the occasion for laying the palace cornerstone. This was done by the Masonic order, of which the king was a 33rd degree Mason in the Scottish Rite and a Knight Templar in the York. The principal address was by Minister of Foreign Affairs JM Kapena, whose wife was the daughter of historian David Malo, and who therefore felt the import of Hawaii’s history. Kapena warned: “It will require all the skill, the watchful care, the patience, the caution, and the industry that can be bestowed in the future in order to secure the well-being of the people and the prosperity of the government.:
January 17, 1880: Baker was dismissed as architect and given an additional $1, 000 to conclude his services. The Superintendent of Public Works took over.
Spring, 1880: In its spring session the legislature, under the influence of Celso Moreno, passed two bills that would have great bearing on Iolani Palace history. One was a bill providing for the education of promising Hawaiian youths abroad; the other appropriated $10,000 for a proper coronation of the new Kalakaua dynasty.
Liliuokalani, the king ‘s sister, justified the bill thus: “The direct line of the Kamehamehas having become extinct, it has been succeeded by our Keawe-a-Heulu line … It is necessary to confirm the new family by a celebration of unusual impressiveness. It is wise and patriotic to spend money to awaken in the people a national pride.:
August 14, 1880: King Kalakaua prorogued the legislature, dismissed his cabinet, and appointed Celso Caesar Moreno as premier.
August 20, 1880: The king was pressured by an increasingly influential business group into retracting Moreno’ s appointment.
August 30, 1880: Moreno prepared to leave for Italy, escorting three Hawaiian youths who were to further their education abroad. Among them was Robert Wilcox, a significant figure in later Hawaiian palace history.
1880: Among the first Bell telephones installed in the Islands was one connecting the palace with the king’s boathouse.
January 20, 1881: To the boom of government cannon on Punchbowl, the music of Berger’s Royal Hawaiian Band playing “Home, Sweet Home”, and salutes of ships in Honolulu Harbor, Kalakaua departed for a tour of the world, the first ruler in history to do so while on the throne. He would return with assurances of: immigrant workers for sugar plantations, furnishings for his palace, cannon from Austria, and two jeweled crowns from England for his coronation.
October 29, 1881: King Kalakaua returned to a magnificent reception: triumphal arches, torches blazing at noonday (a symbol belonging solely to his family), and extravagant adulation of every description. He anxiously checked on the progress of his new palace.
January 27, 1882: A Masonic banquet celebrated completion of the palace. Its architecture was described as “in the ornate style known as ‘American composite …120 by 140 feet on the ground plan and towering 80 feet into the air.” Everyone agreed that it was “the finest and most imposing building in the Islands, an honor and an ornament to our capital city, and a fitting abode for royalty.” It cost $343,595, according to Sanford Dole.
November 4, 1882: The palace was equipped for lighting by gas.
February 12, 1883: The coronation of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani, nine years after their ascension to the throne, took place in a pavilion built at the foot of the King Street stairs (today it is a bandstand at the King and Richards Street corner of the palace grounds). The King’s two sisters, also two of the Queen’s, marched in the procession. The ritual was a combination of old and new, there being five insignia of ancient supreme chieftancy and five symbols of contemporary royalty.
These latter included the crowns, carried by Kapiolani’s nephews, Princes David Kawananakoa and Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, and eighteen orders conferred on Kalakaua by foreign powers over the years. As under the dome of Notre Dame Cathedral Napoleon had taken the crown into his own hands and placed it up on his head, so did Kalakaua in a Hawaiian pavilion crown himself that day. There was no Hawaiian of higher blood rank present to do it for him.
December 16, 1883: The king proudly inspected samples of the newly minted coins, embossed with his own likeness, that were delivered to the palace for the first time.
April 18, 1886: The household guards and King Kalakaua himself helped fight a great fire in Chinatown. Sixty acres of tenements and stores were destroyed. Six to eight thousand were left homeless.
November 16, 1886: The jubilee anniversary of Kalakaua’ s birthday was celebrated. A reception began at six o’clock in the morning. All day long loyal subjects and loyal friends – as well as political favor-seekers – filed by Their Majesties in the throne room, each visitor depositing his hookupu – gift – at the king’s feet.
February 2, 1887: Princess Likelike, sister of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani, lay in state in the throne room. Her death left motherless the little Princess Kaiulani.
April 12, 1887: Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani departed for Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebration, bearing Hawaii’s gifts and aloha.
June 30, 1887: All shops closed on the occasion of a mass meeting called oy foreign businessmen, self-styled ‘The Reformers’, to protest the king’s use of his veto powers to oppose interests they favored. Twenty of the party were bound by oath that any five should “execute him (Kalakaua) for the public good.”
One, in fact – Volney Ashford, head of the Reformers’ armed trainees (the Hawaiian League) – cornered the king in Iolani Palace during the afternoon’s meeting and at gun point extorted $5, 000 from him. Kalakaua forestalled any further violence by sending a spokesman to the meeting to yield to whatever demands were made upon him, The surprised Reformers quickly drafted a new constitution – referred to as the Bayonet Constitution – which the king signed. Thereafter he was a mere figurehead.
November 3, 1887: At the opening of the legislature Kalakaua reported that the 1875 Treaty of Reciprocity with the United States had been extended for seven years; in addition, the US secured the right to use Pearl River as a coaling and repair base for American warships. The US never made use of this right until after Annexation.
December 28, 1888: A mule-drawn tramway began running on King Street in front of the palace.
January 24, 1889: Writer Robert Louis Stevenson, aboard his Yacht Casco, arrived in Hawaii. Kalakaua and he became fast friends, spending much time together in the Bungalow, built on the palace grounds for the king to occupy while the palace itself was under construction. Here they pored over a collection of The Myths and Legends of Hawaii.
in June 27, 1890: For millinery reasons ladies at the palace – or in all Honolulu for that matter – were intrigued by Dr Trousseau’s new ostrich farm, stocked by importing three birds from California.
November 25, 1890: King Kalakaua left his palace to board the USS Charleston; he was bound for San Francisco in search of health. He died in that city on January 20, 1891.
January 29, 1891: Liliuokalani was proclaimed queen.
February 15, 1891: King Kalakaua lay in state in the throne room.
February 25, 1891: The cabinet resigned at the queen’s request. From this time forward she had only trouble in trying to re-assume royal powers her brother had yielded.
August 27, 1891: John Owen Dominis, the queen’s consort, lay in state in the throne room. He had been ill for a long time.
January 14, 1893: Queen Liliuokalani attempted to abrogate the hated Bayonet Constitution of 1887 and proclaim a new one, but her cabinet would not sign the latter, although they had led her to believe they would. She appeared on the palace balcony and told the crowd of Hawaiians gathered because of the rumored change to go home quietly, and later) that through methods provided in the existing constitution a new one would be promulgated.
Meanwhile a Committee of Safety (Reformers of 1887) declared a state of emergency, claiming that “riot and bloodshed were imminent.” Within the next three days events moved quickly: the Committee declared a provisional government to uphold the constitution against which the queen had rebelled; by doing this, they argued, the monarchy had abrogated itself.
The American minister recognized the new government promptly and, by request, landed 300 US marines and bluejackets “to protect American property and lives.” His action thwarted any armed protection of the monarchy. At sundown on January 17 the queen capitulated, protesting to the United States government “… that I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, John L Stevens, has caused the United States Troops to be landed at Honolulu, and declared he will support the Provisional Government.”
February 1, 1893: Across the street from the palace the American flag was hoisted over the government building.
March 17, 1893: Several rare and valuable kahili – royal standards – were stolen from the throne room during the night.
April 1, 1893: Commissioner Blount, sent by President Cleveland to investigate the extent of American participation in the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, ordered the lowering of the American flag flying from the government building. He said it had been raised prematurely. Hawaiians on hand for the ceremony were asked by an Englishman why they did not cheer when the Stars and Stripes came down. Though overjoyed at the reinstatement of his own flag, one replied, “ After all, it is their flag, and we do not want to make them feel bad.”
April 2, 1893: Ryan, a derelict seaman temporarily conscripted into the citizens’ guard of the provisional government, was on duty in the palace basement. From a locked container he stole what he later testified was a paste crown with artificial jewels. In reality it was Kalakaua’ s crown, from which Ryan tore the diamonds, rubies, and semi-precious stones. He then threw the golden taro leaves and their circlet onto the latrine roof, where they were later discovered. The jewels he gambled away or sold to a hack driver.
With his two accomplices, Richard Stone and William Wagner, he was committed to Oahu Prison, where he had spent two months in 1887 for another offense. Ryan and Stone soon escaped and signed on ships leaving the Islands After exhaustive search, some of the smaller diamonds were recovered by a sheriff in remote Arkansas. The legislature ordered the royal crown restored in 1930.
June 2, 1893: The Executive and Advisory Councils passed the following resolution: “The offices of the Executive Council shall be in Iolani Palace, which shall hereafter be the seat of government and shall be known as the Executive Building.”
June 3, 1893: Troops moved into the basement of the executive building while the minister of the interior made himself at home in the dining room. Minister of Foreign Affairs and President Sanford Ballard Dole occupied the former king’s bedchamber and library. The attorney-general’s office was in the ex-queen’s bedchamber. The former throne room was to be used for council meetings, public receptions, audiences, etc.
July 4, 1894: Since the United States rejected the possibility of annexation for the time being, formation of the new Republic of Hawaii was announced from the executive building balcony. Sanford B. Dole was president.
January 6, 1895: A group of citizen guards quartered in Kalakaua’s old bungalow on the executive building grounds rushed to Diamond Head to quell a rumored royalist uprising under the leadership of Robert Wilcox. One goverrnnent man and two royalists were killed before the rebellion was squelched within a few days.
January 16, 1895: Ex-Queen Liliuokalani was arrested for misprision of treason and imprisoned in the upstairs Waikiki-makai corner room of the palace. She had one companion.
January 17-February 20, 1895: A military court of the Republic of Hawaii tried the ex-queen and 190 others accused of treason against the republic. It met in the former palace throne room. Liliuokalani was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. Others were fined, imprisoned, or exiled, and three were sentenced to death. These latter sentences were never executed, however.
January 24, 1895: Liliuokalani signed a formal abdication and an oath of allegiance to the Republic of Hawaii.
September, 1895: The ex-queen was released from her palace prison, but was still held in protective custody at Washington Place. Her fine was never collected.
October 26, 1896: A council of state held in the throne room voted a full pardon for the ex-queen.
July 7, 1898: Because of desperate need for Pearl River as a coaling station to support the Philippine campaign of the Spanish American War, President McKinley signed a Congressional Joint resolution annexing Hawaii.
July 13, 1898: Since no cable yet connected Hawaii and the US, the islands had to wait until this date for the Pacific Mail SS Coptic to bring annexation news from San Francisco.
June, 1898: Even before news of annexation arrived, Honolulu had entertained the “boys in blue”. At one time on the executive building grounds residents provided for the military and naval forces of two fleets by giving them a huge week-long picnic, seating from 1,000 to 1,500 guests a day. Honolulu families volunteered huge quantities of eatables, and a steam boiler erected on the grounds made coffee.
August 12, 1898: The annexation ceremony took place at Iolani Palace. Henri Berger led the band. At the day’ s end he wrote in his journal with characteristic brevity: “The day is done. Flag is raised. We are all Americans. Pau Hawaii.”
October 7, 1899: Across the street from the palace, ice water first became available – in the opera house.
October 9, 1899: The Honorable HR. Baldwin tried out the islands’ first automobile, going down King Street past the palace at fourteen miles per hour.
June 14, 1900: Governor Sanford B Dole was inaugurated on a specially-constructed platform on the Diamond Head side of the palace. The platform was used for dancing at the inaugural ball that night.
Fall election, 1902: Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole who, as Queen Kapiolani’s nephew, had carried one of the crowns at Kalakaua’s coronation, and had also been convicted along with Liliuokalani for treason against the republic, was elected Hawaii’s second delegate to Congress.
January 1, 1903: The Commercial Pacific Cable Company’ s connection completed at Waikiki. That night from the palace Hawaii’s Secretary Cooper talked to President Theodore Roosevelt and received the latter’s congratulations.
November 23, 1903: Governor George R Carter was inaugurated in the throne room.
May 12, 1907: A party of US Congressmen, inspecting Hawaii’s qualifications for statehood, toured the palace.
August 15, 1907: Governor Walter F. Frear was inaugurated in the throne room.
June 21, 1908: David Kawananakoa, the other princely bearer of Kalakaua’s crowns, lay in state in the throne room.
June, 1911: John Philip Sousa’ s band, on world tour, stopped in Hawaii and gave a concert on the executive building grounds.
December 14, 1911: Governor Frear and other officials deserted executive building offices to attend opening ceremonies at Pearl Harbor.
December 31, 1913: Governor Lucius E. Pinkham arrived at the palace on the last night of the year after a parade from the ship that returned him to Hawaii from Washington, DC, where he had taken his oath of office.
August 2, 1914: A ceremony honored Captain Henri Berger for his more than forty years‘ service as conductor of the Royal Hawaiian Band, His last official duty occurred in June, 1915, at the interment or Charles Reed Bishop’s ashes in the Kamehameha tomb at the Royal Mausoleum.
August 7, 1914: On this day, three days after England declared war on Germany, the first of a dozen German ships sought refuge in Honolulu Harbor. Until America’ s entry into the war almost four years later, Governor Pinkham conducted from his executive building offices intermittent and sometimes frantic cable exchanges with Washington concerning the disposition of the vessels.
April 5, 1917: By this time all enemy ships in or leaving island harbors were either damaged or destroyed. From this date they were repaired and converted into American craft, if possible.
April 6, 1917: The throne room was turned over to the Red Cross for making clothing, bandages, etc. “The gilded throne, from which Kalakaua ruled in state, was moved out. The bright crimson carpets were taken up, so that the floor might be scrubbed daily. The pictures of the kings and queens of Hawaii were shrouded with white cheese cloth and even the glittering chandeliers were covered.” Long white tables were placed for maximum work efficiency in both the throne room and on the outside lanai – porches.
September 14, 1917: The Red Cross flag, a gift to the Honolulu chapter from Liliuokalani, was raised above the capitol (executive building) – the first time that such a flag had been displayed on any building in Hawaii, excepting the military hospital.
November 1, 1917: To select men for military service in World War I, Governor Pinkham drew the first draft numbers in the senate chamber of the capitol.
November 11, 1917: On this opening day of Hawaii‘s mobilization camp, named for the aged Liliuokalani, the former queen of the islands passed away. Not only did the recruits encamp to flags at half mast; the entire Territory was in mourning. Later Liliuokalani lay in state in her one-time throne room.
June 22, 1918: Governor Charles J McCarthy was inaugurated in the throne room.
September, 1918 – July, 1921: From Red Cross quarters in the throne room went people and supplies for the relief of diseased and starving thousands of Central Europeans, refugees huddled along Siberia’s Pacific shores. Hawaii’s contributions were outstanding because of its nearness and its aloha spirit.
April 13, 1920: The Prince of Wales arrived. He paid an official visit to Governor McCarthy at the capitol.
July, 1921: Governor Wallace Rider Farrington was inaugurated on the capitol steps.
January 14, 1922: Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, Hawaii ‘s delegate to Congress for nearly two decades, and the last of Hawaiian royalty to bear a title sealed with the seal of the vanished kingdom, lay in state in the throne room.
June 11, 1926: Sanford Ballard Dole – son of missionary parents, lawyer, revolutionist, head of the provisional government, president of the Republic of Hawaii, first governor of the Territory of Hawaii, and presiding judge of the federal district court – lay in state in the throne room.
August 10, 1926: The crown prince and princess of Sweden arrived. They paid an official visit to Governor Farrington at the capitol.
1930: The sum of $150,000 was appropriated to renovate the capitol. Workers replacing timbers discovered a giant cache of bees and honey. Reconstruction was completed in December. Steel girders, rafters, and uprights replaced wooden pnes The brick wall was laid around the banyan tree in the palace yard. The site of Hawaii’s first royal mausoleum, also located in the yard, was cleared and fenced.
July 5, 1929: Governor Lawrence M. Judd was inaugurated on a platform erected in front of the capitol steps.
July 24, 1934: President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the former palace and gave a speech in which he echoed a desire voiced by Curtis P Iaukea once King Kalakaua’s chamberlain, that the throne room be restored and opened to the public because of its great historic value.
March 1, 1934: Governor Joseph B. Poindexter was inaugurated in the executive chambers (formerly Kalakaua’s bedroom) with only a few intimate friends present.
March 21, 1935: The legislature passed a resolution rechristening the executive building Iolani Palace.
October, 1936 -April, 1937: The islands; first large waterfront strike isolated Hawaii. The legislature, meeting in the palace, was powerless to interfere.
November 12, 1938: Restoration of the throne room was completed.
December 7, 1941: The first Japanese bombs fell in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The time: 7:45 a.m. At 9:30 a projectile landed near Governor Poindexter’s driveway at Washington Place, and its fragments killed a passerby across the street. The governor hurried to his office in the palace; a second shell burst in the corner of the palace grounds. By 11:15 am Poindexter was proclaiming a state of emergency over the radio.
Before noon General Walter Short, commanding the Army’s Hawaiian Department, discussed with the governor the advisability of martial law. A call was put through from Iolani Palace to the White House, and President Roosevelt agreed with Short on the need for martial law. At 4:25 pm Governor Poindexter proclaimed the suspension of civilian authority. The military was in command. During the day 57 persons were killed on Oahu, 50 hospitalized, 230 less seriously injured, and private property worth $500, 000 was destroyed; these were civilian losses only, of course.
Office of Civil Defense headquarters were established in the senate chamber of the palace (this room had once been the royal dining room). The throne room was filled with cots for nap-catching during the prevailing forty-eight-hour tours of duty. The palace basement became a Red Cross canteen. Hangings blacked out all windows. Barbed wire girdled the palace gates. Within a few months all rugs, paintings, chandeliers, etc, had been removed and stored for safekeeping.
March 28, 1942: Hawaii’s quota of draftees was almost doubled as 2,645 men were inducted and given an aloha ceremony at Iolani Palace before one of the largest crowds assembled in Honolulu in years.
August 24, 1942: Governor Ingram M Stainback was inaugurated at Washington Place, the palace being occupied by the military.
1943 -1949: Housing was critically short in supply, and as many as eighteen people lived in a single room, using it in shifts. Even as late as 1948 an evicted family, unable to find quarters, camped on Iolani Palace grounds for several days among the temporary buildings squatting there.
March 10, 1943: “Restoration Day” ceremonies were held in the throne room to celebrate the return of civil law and authority – with minor exceptions.
July, 1944: Blackout curtains were removed from palace windows as blackout regulations were lifted.
August 12, 1945: A wild but premature celebration of VJ Day was set off by announcement from the mainland. Prohibited red firecrackers littered King street in front of the palace. An official air raid siren blast triggered a repeat performance two days later.
September 3, 1945: Honolulu’s VJ Day parade and ceremony took place at the palace.
August 9, 1946: A formal reception at the palace honored members of the 442nd and the 100th Battalions. These units, made up of Americans of Japanese ancestry, were the most dec orated of World War II.
May 8, 1951: Governor Oren E Long was inaugurated on a large platform erected at the foot of the palace steps.
February 28, 1953: Governor Samuel Wilder King, the first governor of Hawaiian blood, was inaugurated on a similar platform. It was the first such occasion since Kalakaua’s coronation in 1883 on which heavy rain fell. The rain stopped, however, during the actual ceremony. Old Hawaiians nodded at the blessing thus accorded one of their race.
July 31, 1953: A new building for Hawaii’s archives was completed on the palace grounds.
June 26, 1954: The state funeral of Joseph R Farrington, the islands’ delegate to Congress, was held in the throne room.
October 24, 1956: The first of several Aloha Week pageant s depicting the history of Iolani Palace was produced against the King Street facade.
September 2, 1957: Governor William F. Quinn was inaugurated; he proved to be Hawaii’s last appointed chief executive.
March 12, 1959: From Washington, DC, Governor Quinn telephoned to Iolani Palace that the Hawaii statehood bill had passed Congress. At last Hawaii was a part of the US, in the fullest sense – an equal of her forty-nine sister states.
The above is taken from Lloyd Stone’s article on Iolani Palace in the April 1963 Hawaiian Historical Review.
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