Located in downtown Honolulu directly behind the 'Iolani Palace, the Hawaii State Capitol building and grounds is a stop often missed by folks visiting the historic district of Honolulu. It is, however, a stop well worth making, especially if you time your visit for one of the building's guided tours as described later in this feature.
Planning began in 1960 for the construction of a State Capitol building, although the actual plans were not completed until 1964. Groundbreaking began in November 1965; however, it was not until March 15, 1969, that the building was actually dedicated, almost ten years after the initial planning.
Prior to the opening of the new building, the nearby 'Iolani Palace served as the seat of the state government.
The total cost for the construction of the building was $24,576,000.
The building is constructed primarily of almost 50,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete and 7-million pounds of structural steel. The 360x270 foot building is approximately 100 feet high, approximately the height of a ten-story building.
The entire building is set in a reflecting pool symbolizing the formation of the Hawaiian Islands from out of the sea.
The conical shape of the koa wood paneled legislative chambers represents the volcanoes from which the islands were created. Each of the two chambers has a balcony level spectator gallery with seating for 180 people.
The 40 pillars surrounding the building that reach nearly its top are reminiscent of Hawaii's palm trees.
On both the ocean and mountain facing sides of the building, there are replicas of the State Seal, each 15-feet in diameter and weighing over 7,500 pounds.
Beneath the reflecting pool is a parking garage capable of handling 440 vehicles.
Capitol Grounds - Queen Liliuokalani Statue
Located on the grounds of the capitol are a number of points of interest.
On the makai (ocean) side of the building, between the Capitol and 'Iolani Palace, is a statue of Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii.
Created by artist Marianna Pineda, the statue honors the woman who is known for her great courage, compassion, and musical talent.
Her reign was filled with political turmoil during which the monarchy was overthrown in 1895, a republic declared and, in 1898, Hawaii was annexed by the United States. Queen Liliuokalani survived under detention in the 'Iolani Palace and later at nearby Washington Place until her death in 1917.
Capitol Grounds - Father Damien Statue
On the mauka (mountain) side of the Capitol building, there are two points of interest, a statue of Saint Damien and replica of the Liberty Bell.
Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, was a Belgian priest who ministered to and lived among the people suffering from Hansen's Disease on the island of Moloka`i from 1873 until his death from the same disease in 1889.
His statue was created by French sculptor Marisol Escobar. A second casting of the statue is displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol.
Presented to Hawaii in 1950, a replica of the Liberty Bell also sits on the mauka side of the Capitol building. The original bell resides in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA.
Also Within the Capital District
Visitors to the State Capitol should also be sure to visit the Eternal Flame, located on the ground of Washington Place. The flame burns as a tribute to the men and women of Hawaii who have served in the armed forces. Designed by artist Bumpei Akaji, the flame was dedicated in 1974.
The Korean and Vietnam War Memorial is located alongside Richards Street between the Capitol and the Hawaii State Art Museum. Dedicated in 1994, the wall is a memorial to the soldiers from Hawaii who gave their lives in these two conflicts.
Of course, visitors will surely wish to visit the 'Iolani Palace, the only royal palace found in the United States.
State Capitol Tours
Self-guided tours of the State Capitol are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. year-round, with the exception of state holidays. The Capitol is closed on weekends. Unfortunately, the House and Senate Galleries will not be accessible for self-guided tours.
A self-guided tour pamphlet, along with additional visitors’ information, is available at the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services, located in Room 415 on the 4th floor of the Capitol building. The self-guided tour pamphlet, activity booklets for children, and a map of the Capitol district area can be downloaded from this page.