Washington Place, from Governor’s Home to Museum

In 2000, Mason Architects prepared a Historic Structures Report and Master Plan of Washington Place, which at that time served as the residence of Hawaii’s governor and his family. The Master Plan, which evolved after discussions with the Governor’s staff, recommended (1) moving the Governor’s family to a new mansion, (2) using the first floor as a museum and for formal functions, and (3) transforming the second floor into public museum galleries. Those changes have been implemented over the last decade.

The stately Greek-Revival home on Beretania Street was built in 1847 by Captain John Dominis, who disappeared on a voyage to China to buy furnishings for it. In 1862 it became the home of Queen Lili‘uokalani, who occupied it until her death in 1917, when one of her heirs suggested that the Territorial Government acquire it.

In 1921-22 the termite-ridden building was rebuilt and served until 2002 as the Governor’s residence, as state rooms for meetings and social events, and as a repository for the Queen’s artifacts and historic furnishings.

Following the Master Plan, Mason Architects repaired termite damage in the Queen’s bedroom, recreating wall and ceiling papers, reopening a boarded-up door, and installing antique light fixtures.

In 2004 Mason Architects prepared an Architectural Conservation Plan to:

  • Gather historic documents, photos, and architectural drawings to form the basis of an on-site archive;
  • Analyze, with architectural conservator Ken Hayes, the building’s layout, structure, materials, paint history, mortar composition, and lighting;
  • Address code and accessibility issues and potential impacts of future uses of the building.

In 2005 Mason Architects undertook exterior repairs to the concrete foundation of the 1922 lanai and to gutters and downspouts.

In 2007-2009, in a series of health and safety repairs, new sidewalks, roof, and railings were installed and new plantings were added around the house.

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Award: Historic Preservation Honor Award from Historic Hawai‘i Foundation for the careful restoration of the Queen’s Bedroom, 2003-4.


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Photos: David Franzen; historic photos: Hawaii State Archives

The house served as the Governor’s Mansion from 1922-2002.