From royalty and grand balls to unrest and imprisonment, Iolani Palace stands as an iconic national landmark representing an important promise for the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Built in 1882, Iolani Palace was and continues to be the only official royal residence in the United States. King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, constructed the palace as a symbol of strength, status, and unity of Hawaii, holding grand balls, diplomatic receptions and famous hula performances. However, in 1891, Queen Liliuokalani’s effort to further strengthen the throne received resistance from the Committee of Safety, later resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of the Queen, who was forced to remain in an upstairs bedroom of the Palace for nearly eight months.
The building later served as a government building, holding political offices for the Republic, Territory, and the State of Hawaii. In 1969, these offices were moved into the current State Capitol building, offering the opportunity to restore Iolani Palace to its original grand elegance. Original Palace décor and objects that were sold at auction following the Queen’s imprisonment were recovered from private buyers around the world and returned to their original home. The recreation of original fabrics and finishes added the finishing touches to reestablish the royal appearance of this landmark.
Today, visitors interested in learning more are able to visit Iolani Palace and the surrounding complex to witness its regal glory in person. Opened Wednesday through Friday, the Palace offers both self-led and docent-led tours, both of which include a tour of the first and second floors followed by self-guided discovery of the basement gallery exhibits. For those interested in exploring the connection between Japan’s link to Hawaiian royalty or life at the Palace through the eyes of Palace staff, specialty tours are also available.
Visitors looking to experience the history of Iolani Palace from home can enjoy the rich culture and history through various virtual experiences, including a 3D Virtual Tour, the Portrait Series and The Na Moolelo Lecture Series. The Junior League Digital Files, indexing many newspapers, photographs, and other historical documents, are available to be explored and enjoyed.
Iolani Palace has been a special partner of Halekulani’s “For You, Everything” program for many years. Have you visited Iolani Palace before? If so, share your photos and favorite memories on social media by tagging @HalekulaniHotel.