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Historic Washington Place to reopen with new exhibits

Posted on Nov 29, 2017 in Capitol Connection, Featured
Framed photo of Queen Lili'uokalani

Framed photo of Queen Lili’uokalani

There’s something about Washington Place that stirs some of our deepest emotions. Maybe it’s the memories of Queen Lili‘uokalani and the life she lived there. Or the milestones the historic home has seen. Or the stories from past territorial and state governors who have shaped Hawai‘i.

That’s why First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige and the Washington Place staff have been working with the Washington Place Foundation on a $1.5 million restoration project to transform the entire second floor of the historic mansion into a public exhibit area as a legacy for future generations. Until 2002 when a new residence was built, Washington Place was the official home of 12 Hawai‘i governors. However, for the past few years second floor access has been limited due to needed repairs.

To open up the second floor to the community, we had to address many health and safety issues such as structural reinforcement, wiring and new LED lights for energy efficiency,” explained the first lady. Now, the public will be able to see several refurbished rooms, with photos, memorabilia and artifacts from the queen, the Dominis family and photos from former governors.

Holiday events set

Gov. David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige, together with the Washington Place Foundation, will host a Christmas Open House at the historic home Friday, Dec. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m.The event includes tours of the newly restored second floor and Christmas and Hawaiian music. Reservations are required and can be made at or by calling 586-0248 by Friday, Dec. 8.

Tickets for the Saturday, Dec. 16 ‘Aha Mele from 2 to 6 p.m. at Washington Place are available at The free event is sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The public will be able to view the new exhibits on Friday, Dec. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Washington Place Foundation Annual Christmas Open House. A second free public event will be the ‘Aha Mele on Dec. 16 from 2 to 6 p.m.

First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige with Washington Place curator Cynthia Engle and director Cameron Heen

First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige with Washington Place curator Cynthia Engle and director Cameron Heen, who are working on the 2nd floor restoration

As host and hostess of Washington Place, Governor Ige and the first lady have held many events at the historic home. The landmark has grown into a place for the community to gather for tours, musical events and to learn about our state’s history. “We created the organic garden with the help of students to reflect the governor’s initiative on sustainability. We also want to bring more children here to appreciate what the home means to the people of Hawai’i,” Amano-Ige said.

The new exhibits include personal items from Lili‘uokalani before she became queen; artifacts from the Dominis collection; photos from past governors of their families and dignitaries; and a history of the building’s changes through the years,” said Cynthia Engle, curator of Washington Place. Musicians also will be able to use the He Ku‘ono Mele composition room (music niche) to honor the queen’s vision of preserving Hawaiian language and music.

Cameron Heen, director of Washington Place, added, “We wanted to share the queen’s love of Hawaiian music and pay tribute to her accomplishments. The queen composed more than 165 songs and chants, including the famous ‘Aloha Oe.’ We hope this project gives people a window into the queen’s life, a sense of the families who lived here, and what Washington Place meant to them.”

ALOHA, LILI‘U: Hula halau pay tribute to the queen at the State Capitol

ALOHA, LILI‘U: Hula halau pay tribute to the queen at the State Capitol

‘Year of Remembrance’ for the Queen

To honor Hawai‘i’s last monarch, Governor Ige proclaimed the year 2018 as the “Year of Remembrance of Queen Lili‘uokalani” during a moving ceremony Nov. 11 at the State Capitol. The event marked the 100th anniversary of the queen’s death and paid tribute to her legacy.

“Queen Lili‘uokalani was a strong and wise leader who had courage, conviction and compassion,” said the governor. “She gave a lifetime of service to the people of Hawai‘i and put her people first, before money or power.”

Senators Brickwood Galuteria and Kai Kahele, co-organizers of the event, said there was an overwhelming response to the idea of honoring the last sovereign of Hawai‘i. “She was an extraordinary queen who demonstrated the best in all of us,” Galuteria said.

Read more in our December issue