On August 21, 2009, the state of Hawai’i will celebrate 50 years since President Eisenhower signed a proclamation officially declaring the archipelago the 50th state.
Any historical tour of "The Road to Statehood" has to start with ‘Iolani Palace for one very simple reason that the palace is the easiest place to pick up the “Walking Tour of 50 Years” brochure published by the 50th Anniversary Statehood Commission, a group made up of appointed volunteers from communities around the state and tasked with educating the public on why statehood was proposed for Hawai’i in the first place. (That should give you a hint that statehood is resisted by some, even though the commission points out that in June of 1959, the people of Hawai’i voted 17 to 1 in favor of joining the United States of America.)
But the bigger and more formal reason your walking tour of Hawai’i’s Road to Statehood should start here is that ‘Iolani Palace marks the symbolic seat of power where the Hawaiian monarchy lived—even before the existing building was built in 1882. It is also the site where the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown a mere 11 years after the building was erected in the unique “American Florentine” style.
The docents at the museum (opened as such in 1978) are quick to enumerate that the one-time residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani stands as the only royal palace in the entire United States and that it was outfitted with electricity and telephone lines even before the White House. There was nothing primitive about the place. I know. I toured it a couple years ago. China. Ornate furniture and furnishings. Private library. Crown jewels. A royal coat of arms.
I definitely recommend touring the palace—make reservations in advance—even if some of the rooms feel a bit vacant. One of the efforts of the museum team is restoring it to its full luster.
For history buffs, this brochure is as good as any self-guided tour you’ll find. It features 11 Honolulu sights. Plus, the brochure is much easier—lighter and less bulky—than carrying around a big, fat guidebook.
By the way, the Waikiki Trolley’s “Red Line makes a stop at the palace. Because many hotels—Outrigger included—offer free passes on the trolley, this is the most cost-efficient way to visit the palace and other “Road to Statehood” sites that I will feature in future posts.