To enhance the prestige of Hawai`i overseas and to mark her status as a modern nation, the Hawaiian government appropriated funds to build a modern palace. The cornerstone for `Iolani Palace was laid on December 31, 1879 with full Masonic rites.
Despite a quick succession of three architects, work progressed at the hands of locally obtained contractors, artisans, and laborers. The building was complete enough by August of 1882 for King Kalakaua to hold a luncheon for members of the Legislative Assembly. In December of that year King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi`olani took up residence in their new home.
The Name of The Palace
The first palace was known as Hale Ali`i (House of the Chief). Kamehameha V changed its name to `Iolani Palace in honor of his late brother and predecessor.
`Io is the Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and lani denotes heavenly, royal, or exalted. Although the old palace was demolished in 1874, the name `Iolani Palace was retained for the building that stands today.
The Best of The Modern World
The new `Iolani Palace was outfitted with the most up-to-date amenities, including indoor plumbing. Gas chandeliers installed when the Palace was first built were replaced by electric lighting five years later (less than seven years after Edison invented the first practical incandescent bulb). The King also installed a modern communications system that included the recently invented telephone.
The Merrie Monarch
David Kalakaua is remembered as "the Merrie Monarch" because he was a patron of culture and arts, and enjoyed socializing and entertaining. Although the King and his Queen, Kapi`olani, used several residences, `Iolani Palace was the official residence where they performed official functions, received dignitaries and luminaries from around the world, and entertained often and lavishly. It was the center of social and political life for the Kingdom of Hawai`i.
Musical program from a breakfast party hosted by King Kalakaua. This party would have been serenaded by The Royal Hawaiian Band playing marches, waltzes, polkas written by contemporary and earlier composers.
King Kalakaua. Painting by William Cogswell
David Kalakaua was descended from the chiefs of Kona who aided Kamehameha I in his conquests and in the consolidation of the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom. Kalakaua was educated, along with other future rulers of Hawai`i, at the Chiefs' Children's School. Fluent in Hawaiian and English, he was comfortable in both Hawaiian and Western society. Before ascending the Hawaiian throne in 1874, Colonel Kalakaua held various government positions, including Aide-de-camp to Kamehameha IV, Chamberlain to Kamehameha V, and Postmaster General.
In the first year of his reign, he made history by being the first king to visit the United States. While there he was honored at a state dinner given by President Grant, addressed a joint session of Congress, and successfully negotiated a reciprocity treaty which allowed Hawaiian sugar into the United States duty-free. In 1881, Kalakaua distinguished himself once again by being the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe.
Concerned about the loss of native Hawaiian culture and traditions, Kalakaua encouraged the transcription of Hawaiian oral traditions, and supported the revival of and public performances of the hula, which had been banned by the missionaries earlier in the century. The Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long festival of hula and Hawaiian culture, is held every year in his honor.
History Continued. . .
More About `Iolani Palace
Recent Media Articles
Honolulu Star Bulletin: 3 Court Architects Were Involved in `Iolani Palace Work. Includes a link to a 360-degree panorama of the Palace grounds.
Honolulu Advertiser: Merrie Birthday, and Here's Your Sword. With financial help of the local Masons organization, the Friends bid successfully on a Knights Templar Masonic sword that was made for King Kalakaua.
Honolulu Advertiser: "Monarchy to Annexation: King David Kalakaua" - from the "150 Years of Hawai'i's History" Sesquicentenial Edition.