Hulihe`e Palace History

Kailua landing, Hawaii. Hulihe`e Palace middle background, Moku`aikaua Church in background.
Hawaii State Archives Photograph

Hulihe`e Palace was built by the second Governor of the Island of Hawai`i, John Adams Kuakini. Construction of the home was completed in 1838, a year after the completion of Moku`aikaua Church, the first stone church on the Island of Hawai`i.

The Palace was built by foreign seamen, of native lava rock, coral lime mortar, koa and `ohi`a timbers. It was originally paneled in koa. It has two floors and six rooms: entry hall, parlor, dining room, on the second floor there is a sitting room and two second floor bedrooms. The building is approximately 62 feet long by 32 feet wide. The basement measures 40 feet long by 30 feet wide, excluding two cisterns. The walls are 3 feet thick.

Hulihe`e was the principal residence of Governor Kuakini. After his death in 1844, the Palace passed to his adopted son, William Pitt Leleiohoku. Leleiohoku died a few months later, leaving Hulihe`e to his wife, Princess Ruth Luka Ke`elikōlani. While Princess Ruth owned the Palace, Hulihe`e was a favorite retreat of the royal families. When Princess Ruth passed away in 1883 leaving no surviving heirs, the property passed on to her cousin, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Princess Bernice died the following year and the home was purchased by King David Kalākaua and Queen Kapi`olani.

During the time of King Kalākaua the Palace was extensively remodeled. The lanai were widened. The exterior was stuccoed and the interior plastered. Decorative ceilings, crown moldings, gold leaf picture moldings, crystal chandeliers and redwood pillars were added. On the death of Queen Kapi`olani in 1899, the Palace then passed to their adopted sons, Prince Kūhiō Kalaniana`ole and Prince David Kawānanakoa. In 1914 the property was sold and its contents were put up for auction.

In 1925, Hulihe`e was purchased by the Territory of Hawai`i to be operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai`i. About this time, the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company began to formulate plans for an oceanfront hotel in Kailua-Kona. They decided that the Hulihe`e grounds was the most desirable location in Kailua-Kona and at once began to pressure the Daughters to relinquish Hulihe`e. The ladies held firm and today the museum houses a collection of ancient Hawaiian artifacts and personal memorabilia of Hawaiian royalty.

Most of the furnishings were originally in the Palace during the Monarchy. Hulihe`e Palace was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1973.