Saturday, October 6, 2012

Haleuluhe – King Kamehameha III’s Honolulu Residence

Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III, stepped into the position of King at age 10 (in 1825,) upon the death of his brother Liholiho.

Boki, governor of the island of O‘ahu, built a Honolulu royal residence called ‘Haleuluhe’ (fern house) for the young King at ‘Pelekane’ (Britannia … i.e. Beretania) in the vicinity of the site of the present St. Andrew's (Episcopal) Cathedral.

The Rev. Charles S. Stewart, who returned to Hawaii in 1829 as Chaplain of the US ship-of-war "Vincennes," provides a good description of this palace.  His October 15, 1829 description of Haleuluhe Palace is most complete:

“The king's establishment, but lately erected, is quite in the outskirts of the town - having the open plain towards Punchbowl Hill immediately in the rear.

“On entering it (the main entrance of the palace grounds was closed by a large white gate,) we found ourselves in a spacious yard of some acres,  enclosed on all sides by a well-constructed and high fence, and furnished with two other gates similar to that through which we had passed-one, on another street, in the direction of the residences of most of the chiefs in the neighborhood of the chapel and mission houses, and the other, inland towards the hill and valleys.”

“Everything within, appeared exceedingly neat. On the side of the square at which we entered and near the gate, there are three or four good sized houses, but not differing, externally, from most of the better kind of native dwellings.  These, we were informed, are the dining and sleeping rooms, offices, etc., of the king and his household.

“At a considerable distance, on the opposite side, stands the palace - a fine  lofty building of thatch, some hundred or more feet in length, fifty or sixty broad, and forty or more high - beautifully finished and ornamented at the corners, from the ground to the peak, and along the ridge of the roof, with a rich edging of fern leaves (uluhe fern: Dicranopteris linearis, also known as false staghorn fern]”.

“It is enclosed by a handsome and substantial palisade fence, with two gates-one large, in front, and a smaller at the side and a pebbled area within.”

“All the timbers in sight, the numerous posts, rafters, and centre pillars, are of a fine substantial size, and of a dark hard wood, hewn with the nicest regularity. The lashing of sinnit [sennit], made of the fibres of the cocoanut bleached white, are put on with such neatness, and wrought into so beautiful a pattern, at close and regular intervals, as to give to the posts and rafters the appearance of being divided into natural sections by them; and to produce, by the whiteness and nice workmanship of the braid, in contrast with the colors of the wood, an effect striking and highly ornamental.”

“But that, which most attracted my admiration in the building, is an improvement - a device of native ingenuity - of which I was told, we then saw the first specimen, and which gives to the interior a finish, as beautiful as appropriate, to such an edifice.”

“It is a lining between the timbers and the thatch, screening entirely from sight, the grass of which the external covers is composed; and, which always gives an air of rudeness, and a barnyard look, even to the handsomest and best finished of their former establishments.”

“The manufacture is from a small, round mountain vine, of a rich chestnut color (some say the stem of the uluhe fern) - tied horizontally, stem upon stem, as closely as possible, in the manner, and probably in imitation, of the painted window blinds of split bamboo, brought from the East Indies, once much in fashion and still occasionally seen in the United States.”

“The whole of the inside, from the floor to the peak of the roof - a height of at least forty feet - is covered with this, seemingly in one piece; imparting by the beauty of its color and entire effect, an air of richness to the room, not dissimilar to that of the tapestry, and arras hangings of more polished audience chambers.”

“The floor also is a novelty, and an experiment here: consisting - in place of the ground strewn with rushes or grass, as a foundation for the mats, as was formerly the case - of a pavement of stone and mortar, spread with a cement of lime, having all the smoothness and hardness of marble.”

“Upon this, beautifully variegated mats of Tauai (island of Kauaʻi) were spread - forming a carpet as delightful, and appropriate to the climate, as could have been selected.”

“Large windows on either side, and the folding doors of glass at each end, are hung with draperies of crimson damask; besides which, and the mats on the floors, the furniture consists of handsome pier tables, and large mirrors; of a line of glass chandeliers suspended through the centre … and of portraits in oil of the late king and queen, taken in London, placed at the upper end, in carved frames richly gilt.”

“In the middle of the room, about sixty feet in front, or two thirds the length of the apartment, the young monarch was seated, in an armchair, spread with a splendid cloak of yellow feathers.”

“His dress was the Windsor uniform, of the first rank, with epaulettes of gold - the present of George IV - and an undress of white, with silk stockings and pumps.”

“On a sofa, immediately on his right, were Ka‘ahumanu, the regent, and the two ex-queens, Kīna’u - at present the wife of General Kekūanaō‘a and Kekauruohe (Kekauluohi).“

Information here is from ‘Palace and Forts of the Hawaiian Kingdom.’

© 2012 Hoʻokuleana LLC

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