Queen Emma Summer Palace – Nuʻuanu, Oʻahu
Tour the Summer Home used by Queen Emma & her family as a retreat from Palace life in hot & dusty Honolulu.
It is starting to heat up here in the Pacific! I’ve been wanting to visit the Queen Emma Summer Palace for a while & was in search of something cool to do (literally). Located just ten minutes from Downtown Honolulu, this historic retreat worked out perfectly! After looking around the home & gift shop, the terrace and surrounding botanical garden is a beautiful space to relax.
Mahalo to the Daughters of Hawai’i for maintaining this wonderful estate to be shared with future generations and visitors alike.
Open Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
$10 General Admission / $8 Kama’aina / $1 Children
2913 Pali Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817
Built in 1848
The home, named The Southern Cross, was built in 1848 by John Lewis, a Honolulu businessman, who purchased the property from the Hawaiian Government. Lewis, who wanted a New England-style home, had the house frame and siding cut in Boston and shipped to Hawaii via Cape Horn. The structure is one of the few remaining examples of Greek Revival architecture in the islands.
In 1850, the property was sold to Queen Emma’s uncle, John Young II, for $6,000 and given the name Hānaiakamalama – after his ancestral home on the Island of Hawai’i. In 1857, Young, then childless, willed the home to young Emma. It was at Hānaiakamalama that King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma, and their young son, Prince Albert Edward, enjoyed the cool breeze of Nu’uanu and bonded as a family.
After Emma’s death in 1885, the home was purchased by the monarchial government and leased. In the early 1900’s, the property was owned by the Territorial government. Plans brewing to turn the property into a park were to threaten the historic home; thus, the Daughters of Hawai’i intervened to restore and furnish the building to open it as a museum.
The Daughters of Hawai’i
The Daughters of Hawai’i manages and maintains this home and Hulihe’e Palace in Kailua-Kona. Both properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Foreseeing the loss of Hawaiian culture and historic sites, seven women founded the Daughters of Hawai’i in 1903 to “perpetuate the memory and spirit of old Hawai’i and of historic facts and to preserve the nomenclature and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian language.” Members throughout the world continue this mission today.
The ballroom at the rear of the home was built in 1869 by Queen Emma as an addition. This room was built in honor of the Duke of Edinburgh, the first prince from Europe to visit the Hawaiian Kingdom.
This ballroom has beautiful chandeliers, wallpaper & carpeting. Another notable feature is the handblown concave and convex glass panes, which are rare.
The home features a number of portraits of past rulers of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Many of the monarchs focused on strengthening Hawai’i as an independent nation and traveling abroad to secure ties with foreign countries. Each portrait on the wall of the home represents the monarchial era surrounding the furnishing of the Palace, and helps give insight into what Hawai’i was like during the life of Queen Emma.
Kahili served to formally identify the ruling class at ceremonies and celebrations. The royal feather cloak or ‘ahu ‘ula is constructed of very fine ‘olonā cordage holding clusters of thousands of tiny red feathers of the native ‘i’iwi and yellow feathers of the native mamo – both of which are now extinct. The cloak make its way to St. Augustine’s Theological Seminary at Canterbury, England where it was later purchased by the Hite Family and donated by Mrs. Charles Hite to the Daughters of Hawai’i.
The koa cabinet displays feather capes which were worn across the shoulders of royal women and chiefs.
The large Hawaiian wooden bowls or ‘umeke were used for housekeeping purposes and to store poi and other foods. ‘Umeke were also stacked like a chest of drawers to store clothing and bedding.
Queen Emma’s Case
Queen Consort Emma was born in 1836 to High Hawaiian Chief George Na’ea and Fanny Young. At her birth, she became the hanai (adopted) daughter to her mother’s sister, Grace Young, and husband, Dr. Thomas Rooke.
As a young girl, Emma attended the Chief’s Children School, where she met her future husband, Alexander. When the school closed in 1850, she continued her studies with a private tutor and spent a great deal of time with her father at his medical dispensary. Some of her hobbies included sewing, playing piano, and horseback riding.
Upon Alexander’s return from his travels abroad, and after taking the throne, he courted Emma for her hand in marriage. The young couple married in 1856, and their son was born two years later.
Lei Hulu, or feather lei, were commonly worn around the neck or head by royal women.
Lei niho palaoa (unpictured) are lei made of long strands of braided hair and hold a hook-shaped piece of ivory made from a sperm whale tooth.
Kapa, or tapa, usually refers to the fabric made from tree bark and worn as clothing or used as blankets.
The silver christening vessel was a gift from Queen Victoria of England, the little Prince’s godmother. It was sent to Hawai’i with holy water for his baptism.
King Kamehameha IV & Queen Emma were responsible for bringing the Anglican Church to Hawai’i. King Kamehameha IV also dedicated most of his final months to translating the Anglican Book of Common Prayer into the Hawaiian language. The first edition of his translation was published prior to Queen Emma’s departure to Europe. She took copies with her and gave them as gifts on her journey.
Heir to the Hawaiian Monarchy
Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kamehameha
“Haku” was the only son of King Kamehameha IV & Queen Consort Emma. His godmother was Queen Victoria II of England. Tragically, the young prince passed away at the age of four from brain fever.
The Little Prince
On the top shelf of the display cabinet is a miniature chief’s helmet made from ‘ie’ie rootlets. This small headpiece or mahiole is without feathers and is said to have been made for the Prince. The display cabinet also holds Prince Albert Edward’s red fireman’s jacket, silver cup, and other personal effects.
Prince Albert Edward’s bathtub of porcelain in a koa stand (unpictured) was a gift of a Chinese emperor.
Originally in the home, this room was used as a dining room. It is believed that the cook house and maid quarters would have been located outside near Prince Albert’s Terrace. When Queen Emma returns to this home, after losing her son and husband, she turns this room into her bedroom. It is unknown how the room would have been set up or what furniture was here.
Queen Emma’s sleigh bed, another fine koa piece by Wilhelm Fischer, is decorated with a crown of inlaid mother-of-pearl and brass. An identical bed was made for Kamehameha IV.
The large four poster bed is made out of koa wood and was commissioned by Kamehameha III. Acorns represents fertility, feathers represents royalty, pineapple represents hospitality, and the eagles clawing at the base of the bed represents strength. This bed later became Queen Emma’s.
In 1865, Queen Emma began her mission to raise money to build the first Anglican cathedral in Hawai’i. She set sail to England and upon her arrival was presented to Queen Victoria. The two women befriended each other, and Emma was gifted with a bracelet containing a lock of Queen Victoria’s hair. She also visited France, where she met the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, from whom she received the stereopticon and matching chair.
During her time home, she was very much a hostess. She received the tiger claw necklace with rolled gold and seed pearls from a maharajah of India. She also received the amethyst bracelet from the Duke of Edinburgh.
On her stop through the United States, she purchased the Collard & Collard piano, which she later donated to Saint Andrew’s Priory for Girls.
Queen Emma’s Legacy
Queen Emma was known as the Queen of People’s Hearts, and was dedicated to the health, education, and future generations of her people. Emma and Alexander founded
Emma and Alexander founded the Queen’s Medical Center, with concern for the Native people of Hawai’i during a time when epidemics were spreading through the islands. They used money from their personal funds in addition to asking friends for donations. The hospital is the oldest and largest in Hawai’i, with 70 locations throughout the Islands.
At the request of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, in 1863, St. Alban’s College in Pauoa, O’ahu was established and later became ‘Iolani School.
After losing her son and husband, and having no room on the royal burial grounds (Pohukaina), Queen Emma wanted to build a mausoleum for them. Kamehameha V wanted the Kamehameha family buried there, and soon it became the royal mausoleum. In 1863, Mauna Ala was founded and after being completed, Emma is said to have stayed by her family for two weeks, mourning their deaths.
During Queen Emma’s travel abroad, she managed to raise $16,000 to use in the building of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. She would also found the Priory for Girls, which remains an all-girl school today in honor of her legacy.
Queen Emma was said to have over 600 books in her personal collection and, upon passing, she left them to the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association – which helped the Hawaii State Library System grow to where it is today.