ʻIolani Palace State Monument consists of ʻIolani Palace, Barracks, Coronation Pavilion, Kanaina Building (Old Archives Building), Kekauluohi Building (State Archives Building) and Grounds consisting of 11 acres of land, including the perimeter wall and wrought iron fence bordered by King Street, Likelike Street, Hotel Street Mall and Richards Street.
ʻIolani Monument is one of the most important historical and cultural resources in Hawaiʻi. Before the arrival of the missionaries in the 1820s, a Hawaiian temple or heiau, known as “Kaahimauili,” was in this area.
Also on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace is a Burial Mound, a former Royal Mausoleum.
The Sacred Mound (previously a stone mausoleum) – Pohukaina – was constructed in 1825 to house the remains of Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and his consort, Queen Kamāmalu. Both had died of measles while on a journey to England the year before.
It is believed they probably contracted the disease on their visit to the Royal Military Asylum (now the Duke of York’s Royal Military School;) virtually the entire royal party developed measles within weeks of arrival.
Kamāmalu (aged 22) died on July 8, 1824. The grief-stricken Kamehameha II (age 27) died six days later on July 14, 1824. Prior to his death he asked to return and buried in Hawai‘i.
Then upon their arrival in Hawai‘i, in consultation between the Kuhina Nui, Ka‘ahumanu, and other high chiefs, and telling them about Westminster Abbey and the underground burial crypts they had seen there, it was decided to build a mausoleum building on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace.
The mausoleum was a small eighteen-by-twenty-four foot Western style structure made of white-washed coral blocks with a thatched roof; it had no windows.
Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and Queen Kamāmalu were buried on August 23, 1825. The name ‘Pohukaina’ begins to be used to reference the site at the time of their burial. (Pohukaina – is translated as “Pohu-ka-ʻāina” (the land is quiet and calm.))
For the next forty years, this royal tomb and the land immediately surrounding it became the final resting place for the kings of Hawai‘i, their consorts and important chiefs of the kingdom
Reportedly, in 1858, Kamehameha IV brings over the ancestral remains of other Aliʻi – coffins and even earlier grave material – out of their original burial caves, and they are buried in Pohukaina.
In 1865, the remains of 21 Ali‘i were removed from this site and transferred in a torchlight procession at night to Mauna ‘Ala, a new Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu Valley.
In a speech delivered on the occasion of the laying of the Cornerstone of The Royal Palace (ʻIolani Palace,) Honolulu, in 1879, JH Kapena, Minister of Foreign Relations, said:
“Doubtless the memory is yet green of that never-to-be-forgotten night when the remains of the departed chiefs were removed to the Royal Mausoleum in the valley.”
“Perhaps the world had never witnessed a procession more weird and solemn than that which conveyed the bodies of the chiefs through our streets, accompanied on each side by thousands of people until the mausoleum was reached …”
“… the entire scene and procession being lighted by large kukui torches, while the midnight darkness brought in striking relief the coffins on their biers.”
“Earth has not seen a more solemn procession what when, in the darkness of the night, the bodies of these chieftains were carried through the streets”. (Hawaiian Gazette, January 14, 1880)
The March 10, 1899 issue of the Hawaiian Gazette noted that Liloa (1500s,) Lonoikamakahiki (late-1500s) and Alapaʻi (1700s) are among the buried at Mauna ʻAla.
After being overgrown for many years, the Hawaiian Historical Society passed a resolution in 1930 requesting Governor Lawrence Judd to memorialize the site with the construction of a metal fence enclosure and a plaque. (Tradition holds that the tomb was on the site of a former cave.)
In order that the spot may not be forgotten where that tomb once stood, the king has caused a mound to be raised.
The State designated the area a Monument in recognition of its historic importance, and to utilize these unique resources to educate and promote awareness of the historic and cultural character of the era of the Hawaiian monarchy.