Papaʻenaʻena heiau was situated on the side of Lēʻahi, Diamond Head. It was referred to by early writers as “Lēʻahi heiau.”
Papaʻenaʻena was reportedly built by Maui King Kahekili to commemorate his conquest of Oʻahu. This heiau was destroyed in about 1856 and its stones were carted off to Waikīkī for use as rock walls and driveways.
During the Mahele this site was given by the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi to the future King Lunalilo. After the king’s death this site was sold to James Campbell, in 1883. Later, Walter F. Dillingham bought the land from Campbell.
In 1910, Walter Dillingham married Louise Gaylord. Bucking the current trend of wealthy families living in Mānoa, Mr. Dillingham chose to build his new bride a home on a dry and – at the time – remote area on the slopes of Diamond Head.
With the help of famed Chicago architect, David Adler, they built a home similar to the Villa La Pietra they admired in Tuscany while on their honeymoon.
Three elements compose the central structure. One is facing the northward toward the Koʻolau range, one westward to the Waianae range, and one southward to the sea.
All three face inward on a flagged courtyard surrounded by a pillared arcade. In the center of the courtyard is an Italianate fountain, which was used to cool the building when the breeze swept through the structure.
The building is a composite of villa, as noted by Grace Tower Warren, Island Hostess: An Italian Villa in Hawaii, Paradise of the Pacific, Vol. 63:
“Many people have had the idea that La Pietra is a copy of my aunt’s villa in Florence of the same name, the one In which Mr. Dillingham and I were married, but such is not the case”, said Mrs. Dillingham.
“It is a composite of several of the beautiful villas in Florence to which my aunt, Mrs. Acton, took me, The facade facing the Waianae Mountains and the town is copied from the Villa Cambreia, The facade facing the Koolau Mountains is a replica of the de Medici villa in Florence. Our architect was David Adler, and he beautifully combined and coordinated the designs and ideas we loved…”
Mr. Dillingham and Adler did not work together in person. At the time Adler was designing another residence in New York. So Mr. Dillingham sent Mr. Adler detailed measurements and contour maps of the site, and photographs showing the setting in which the villa would stand.
With that, La Pietra – meaning The Gem or The Rock – was born.
The Dillingham home was completed in 1922 and included 5 bedrooms, a swimming pool, a formal dining room, horse stables, servants’ quarters, tennis courts, and a game/pool table room.
Architecturally, the home is described as “An extensive two-story “Italian villa” in an imposing terraced setting overlooking Kapiʻolani Park, Waikiki Bay and Honolulu; an example of the “Mediterranean Revival” period which had some popularity in Honolulu, as on the mainland.”
For the next 40 years, La Pietra was a social center for Honolulu’s wealthy and famous, with visitors to the estate including Franklin D. Roosevelt and Walt Disney.
Upon Mr. Dillingham’s death in 1963, Punahou School gained ownership of La Pietra and used it for faculty housing; the property was eventually sold to the newly formed Hawaii School for Girls in 1969.
With its start at Central Union Church, Hawaii School for Girls then renamed and relocated to La Pietra – Hawaii School for Girls, an independent, college preparatory school for girls, which consisted of nine founding teachers, 210 girls and Head of School, Joseph Pynchon.
Over the years, various enhancements were made to the campus. A six classroom building named in honor of Mrs. Cooke was dedicated in January 1977.
The athletic complex, completed in 1987, was named in honor of Mrs. Anthony in 2008. Bachman Science Center was built in 1997. Most recently, the school renovated its library to create Hawaii’s first all-digital school library.