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Hulihee Palace plans grand reopening Sept. 30

Hulihee Palace was closed for repairs after the October 2006 earthquakes. It reopens to visitors Sept. 30. (Hawaii247 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hulihee Palace was closed for repairs after the October 2006 earthquakes. It reopens to visitors Sept. 30. (Hawaii247 photo by Karin Stanton)

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After a $1.5 million dollar renovation, Hulihee Palace opens its doors 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29 with a blessing and open house celebration for caretakers of the landmark — the Daughters of Hawaii and the Calabash Cousins. 

The palace resumes regular operation Sept. 30 for public self-guided tours. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

The palace also boasts fresh landscaping and a newly enlarged Palace Gift Shop, located in the next-door Kuakini Building. Open during palace hours, the gift shop offers Hawaiian books, Niihau shell lei, koa gifts and wall art created on location at the palace by local artists.

Although severely damaged during the October 2006 earthquakes, Hulihee operated on a limited basis, providing visitors with video viewing of its pre-earthquake splendor. 

During the renovations and repairs, the palace’s caretakers — the Daughters of Hawaii and the Calabash Cousins — have continued to host free monthly concerts on the palace south lawn.

Built in 1838 by Governor John Adams Kuakini, Hulihee has again been restored to circa 1885, a period known in Hawaiian history as the Kalakaua Era as King David Kalakaua ruled the Hawaiian kingdom. 

The palace was restored under the direction of the Connecticut-based John Canning Painting and Conservation Studios. The firm, which specializes in historic preservation, has worked on numerous national landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol, Radio City Music Hall and New York’s Grand Central Station.

According to Fanny Au Hoy, long-time Hulihee Palace administrator, Hulihee is painstakingly restored to a specific time frame to retain its status on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Selection of the Kalakaua Era enables the palace to keep its two oceanside lanai and display its exquisite donated and on-loan collection of Victorian artifacts from the King Kalakaua reign — including a koa armoire that was awarded a silver medal in the 1889 International Exhibition in Paris.

Known as the “Merrie Monarch” for his love of music and entertaining, King Kalakaua (1836-1891) spent much time at Hulihee. He stuccoed the exterior, widened the two oceanside lanai and built an adjacent cookhouse, as the palace had no kitchen. Inside, the robust king plastered the walls, added refined decorating touches and commissioned Victorian furnishings.

During the 20-month restoration project, Hulihee’s artifact collection was catalogued and stored. The treasures were recently returned to the two-story palace in all their splendor.

“Our many treasures, which date to pre-Western contact Hawaii, are finally back in the palace in their familiar places,” Au Hoy said. “It’s been a long process and we’re thrilled to open our doors again. We invite the community Sept. 30 to come in and see how the palace has been restored to its original magnificence.”

Treasures include javelins and spears belonging to King Kamehameha the Great — marvel at the king’s massive, rotund lava rock — he used it as an exercise ball to master agility and balance; it weighs a whopping 180 pounds!

Check out a 70-inch table top made from a single piece of koa, steamer trunks used to carry belongings to attend Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, portraits of Hawaii’s monarchs, pieces of fine Lokelani china and a rare mat made from the endemic sedge, makaloa. More than 1,000 artifacts on display.

Hulihee Palace admission, which at this time includes a self-guided tour brochure, remains $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for keiki under 18. Volunteer docents are sometimes available to give guided tours. 

For details, contact the palace at 329-1877, the palace office at 329-9555 or visit www.daughtersofhawaii.org. The gift shop can be reached by phoning 329-6558.

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