Captain John Dominis was an Italian-American ship captain and merchant from New York who had been trading in the Pacific since the 1820s.
In the 1840s, he purchased property on Beretania Street. There, he started to build a home for his family, Mary Lambert Dominis (his wife) and John Owen Dominis (his son.)
The original central portion, built in 1844-1847, was designed and executed in Greek Revival Style, with supplies ordered from Boston.
Captain Dominis reportedly embarked on several trading voyages while the house was being built, using the profits to pay off accumulated debts and resume operations (it’s not clear how many trips were required to build the new home.)
It is a two-story structure with partial basement. Various additions and alterations have occurred over the years. Cellar walls and foundations are of coral stone; Walls are coral stone (approximately 2½-feet thick) faced with cement to simulate stone work. The second floor is wood frame.
In 1847, on a voyage to the China Sea, Captain Dominis was lost at sea.
The grounds were said to have been planted “by Mrs. Captain Dominis as the first private garden in Honolulu, carefully watered until the yard was a handsome, cool retreat.” By 1848 the garden was sufficiently interesting for a visitor to ask for a list of the plants in the yard.
Mary Dominis then rented out the spare bedroom to American Commissioner Anthony Ten Eyck. Impressed with the white manor and grand columns out front, Ten Eyck said it reminded him of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s mansion and that it should be named “Washington Place.” He wrote a letter to RC Wyllie stating such.
King Kamehameha III, who concurred, Proclaimed as ‘Official Notice,’ “It has pleased His Majesty the King to approve of the name of Washington Place given this day by the Commissioner of the United States, to the House and Premises of Mrs. Dominis and to command that they retain that name in all time coming.” (February 22, 1848)
In 1862, John Owen Dominis married Lydia Kamakaʻeha (also known as Lydia Kamakaʻeha Pākī.) Lydia Dominis described Washington Place “as comfortable in its appointments as it is inviting in its aspect.”
Mary Dominis died on April 25, 1889, and the premises went to her son, John Owen Dominis, Governor of Oʻahu.
Lydia was eventually titled Princess and later Queen Liliʻuokalani, in 1891. John Owen died shortly after becoming Prince consort (making Liliʻuokalani the second widow of the mansion.) Title then passed to Queen Liliʻuokalani.
Liliʻuokalani continued to occupy Washington Place until her death on November 11, 1917.
Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, one of the heirs to the estate of Queen Liliʻuokalani, suggested that the Territory acquire Washington Place as the Executive Mansion. The Legislature appropriated funds for the purchase, and in May, 1921, the property was acquired by the Territory.
In 1922, major additions were made. These included the glassed-in lanai, the porte-cochere and the rear one-story wing with Dining Room and Kitchen. Family bedrooms were added to the second-story of this wing, later.
Washington Place became the official home of the Governor of Hawaiʻi when it was formally opened on April 21, 1922, by Governor Wallace Rider Farrington.
In 1954, the large Covered Terrace was constructed and in 1959, the second-story TV room was built above the glassed-in lanai. An elevator and the metal fire escape were added in 1963.
The Beretania Street and Miller Street sides and a portion of the rear line are enclosed with a wrought iron fence set on a concrete base.
The original tract, as owned by the Dominis family and Queen Liliʻuokalani, comprised about 1.46 acres. The Territory of Hawaiʻi acquired additional property on Miller Street, making a total of about 3.1 acres.
Across the street from the State Capitol on Beretania Street, Washington Place was the executive mansion for the territorial governors from 1918 to 1959, and, after Hawaiʻi became the 50th state, the state governor’s mansion, from 1959 to 2002.
Washington Place remains the official residence of the governor however, a new house, built on the property in 2002, is now the personal residence of the Governor of Hawai‘i. (governor-hawaii-gov)
The image shows Queen Liliʻuokalani outside Washington Place in 1893. In addition, I have added other images of Washington Place in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
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