I received E-Mail that said:

I recently lived in Hawaii for 3 yrs. Of all the tourist attractions they have there, I was most impressed by 'Iolani Palace. It is the home of the Hawaiian royals, built in 1882 and is located in Honolulu.

Later, I received more E-Mail that said:

The palace was built for King Kalakaua but it was his sister who lived there the longest. Her name was Queen Lili'uokalani. The Palace also was the state capital building until 1969.

Later, I received E-Mail that said:

Liliuokalani lived at the Iolani Palace from 1895 until she died there in 1917. She was held prisoner there after weapons had been found in her gardens at the Washington Palace.

Click here to visit Iolani Palace web page for information about tours, etc.
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On 3-7-07, I received E-Mail that said:

The last message is completely wrong. Queen Liliʻuokalani reigned from 1891 until 1893. During her reign she did not actualy live at the Iolani Palace. She would go there to work during the day but actualy lived at her private residence, Washington Place, which is just down the street and had better security since it was smaller. She was imprisoned in and upstairs bedroom of the palace for 8 months between 1895-1896. She died in 1917 at Washington Place. After her overthrow the palace was stripped of all its opulence and everything that could be moved was sold at auctions which lasted for several years. It was used at the capitol building from 1893-1969 when a new capital was built. The palace underwent restoration and is still trying to get back its lost artifacts. It was open for tours since 1978.

On 4-6-11, I received e-mail that said:

The cornerstone of the palace was laid on December 31, 1879 with full Masonic rites. The Hawaiian government appropriated the funds to build a modern palace in order to “enhance the prestige of Hawaii overseas and to mark her status as a modern nation.” Iolani Palace is the only official residence of royalty left in the United States. (Hulihe‘e Palace in Kona was privately built and owned – not an “official residence.”) The palace was built during the reign of King Kalakaua who was not a descendant of the Kamehameha Kings;* he was actually elected King by the constitutional legislature. He had previously been 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. He was honored at a state dinner given by President Grant, addressed a joint session of Congress, and successfully concluded a treaty that allowed Hawaiian sugar and rice into the United States duty-free. In 1881, he became the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe. He reigned from February 12, 1874 until his death in San Francisco on January 20, 1891. He was the last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawaii. (He had no children and named his sister as his heir, the only queen to rule in her own right, and she became the last Hawaiian Monarch).

King Kalakaua and his wife, Queen Kapiolani, moved into Iolani Palace when it was completed in 1882. The building materials were imported from the Mainland, including slate for the roof from Pennsylvania, etched glass from San Francisco, cast iron columns for the veranda, and cedar wood from the Pacific Northwest to go along with the native koa and kamani woods for the interior. The palace had the most up-to-date amenities, including flush toilets and hot and cold running water. Gas chandeliers were installed when the Palace was built, but the King had them replaced with electric lighting five years later, after meeting Thomas Edison and seeing a display of electric lights in Paris. (This was five years before the White House and 17 years before Buckingham Palace got electric lighting.) The King also installed a modern communications system that included the recently invented telephone.

The self-guided audio tour starts on the back veranda where you are given booties to wear over your shoes. You enter through the back door into the grand hall. The staircase is one of the largest koa wood structures in the world and its steps are the only remaining original flooring at the palace. Most of the palace’s glass is also original, including the beautiful etched glass in the front doors. Portraits (by European and American artists) of Hawaii’s kings and queens are displayed on the wall surrounding the staircase. You go through the State Dining Room (and the service area which includes a dumb waiter), the Blue Room (the informal reception room), and the throne room (very cool!). On the second floor you see the private living quarters: the Upper Hall, the King’s bedroom, a library, a music room, the Queen’s bedroom, and an extra bedroom. When King Kalakaua died in 1891, his sister became Queen Liliuokalani. The Palace served as her residence and the seat of the government until she was overthrown in 1893 by advocates of a Republic for Hawaii (including European and American businessmen). The Republic of Hawaii was established, with a President, in 1894. In 1895 Queen Liliuokalani was arrested after a failed Counter-Revolution. She denied any knowledge of it at her military trial (held in the throne room) but was found guilty and sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison. The sentence was commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom at Iolani Palace. She spent 8 months in this room. In 1896, the Republic of Hawaii gave her a full pardon. Iolani Palace was also used as the capitol for the Provisional Government, the Republic of Hawaii, the Territory of Hawaii, and then the State of Hawaii, until 1969.

The basement of the palace (also on the tour) contains the kitchen, a display of ancient regalia and royal jewelry, a history gallery, the chamberlain’s office, and another gift shop (in addition to the one in the Royal Guard Barracks).

*The royal succession:

Kamehameha I, “The Great” (1795-1819);
Kamehameha II, Liholiho (1819-1824) was Kamehameha I’s son;
Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli (1825-1854) was Kamehameha II’s brother (another son of Kamehameha I);
Kamehameha IV, Alexander Liholiho (1854-1863) was Kamehameha III’s nephew (grandson of Kamehameha I);
Kamehameha V, Lot Kapuaiwa (1863-1872) was Kamehameha IV’s brother (also a grandson of Kamehameha I).
Kamehameha V named his sister as his heir, but she died before him. When he died, he had not named another heir and the Kamehameha dynasty ended. The legislators nominated William Lunalilo and David Kalakaua. A popular election was held and Lunalilo won (becoming the first elected monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom); however, he died after just one year of rule and Kalakaua was elected to replace him. Kalakaua was the son of Charles Kanaina (of very high royalty from Maui) and Miriam Auhea Kekauluohi, a niece of Kamehameha I through her father Kalaimamahu, Kamehameha I’s half-brother.

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Photo and much of this info courtesy of Susan Martin.