Hawaii News | Keep Hawaii Hawaii Color, glass windows gave Washington Place exotic air By Robert M. Fox and David Cheever Nov. 2, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERT M. FOXThe gleaming white Washington Place stood out when it was completed in 1847. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Washington Place, built by American trader and sea captain John Dominis, is a beautiful, historic home that has several features that now seem ordinary, but were once exotic when the house was built. For one thing, it was one of the very few structures in central Honolulu when it was finished in 1847 that was painted gleaming white. It stood out surrounded by hundreds of silver-brown thatch hale. It is also well to keep in mind that the area around Washington Place when it was built had practically no trees or other vegetation, which seems strange given the heavy foliage we see today. That lack of plants made it very hot and meant the nearly constant presence of choking dust. G.F. Cummings recalled that there were only seven trees in the whole valley around the time Washington Place was built. He wrote that Dominis’ wife, Mary, set about to fix that by planting what is considered to be Honolulu’s first garden. The story is that she gratefully accepted greenery from anyone who came by with trees, shrubs and plants and persevered until her garden was a source of amazement to her neighbors and friends. An additional early feature of Washington Place was the remarkable number of windows that admitted the lovely Hawaiian sunshine — yet, once again, those windows were exotic: They shielded the interior and its occupants from the ever-present dust with squares of real glass. The plate glass was hand-blown in Boston at the astronomical price of $1.20 a pane and most of it survived the five-month voyage. But Washington Place was not always a place of light. It was also a backdrop for two dark tragedies. The first occurred when John Dominis set out on a trade voyage to China — during which he also intended to collect furnishings for Washington Place, which at the time was still under construction — but was lost at sea. He never saw the lovely home he envisioned and the tragedy left his widow to support herself by renting rooms. In one important case that turned out to be a fortuitous event. In 1893 the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by Western businessmen. The second tragedy took place in 1895, when Queen Liliuokalani was arrested by the Provisional Government at Washington Place, her home, following a failed attempt by royalist supporters to restore the crown. At that time she was escorted by carriage from Washington Place across the street to Iolani Palace, where she would be imprisoned for eight months, and then released under parole but under house arrest at Washington Place, where she remained until her full pardon in October 1896. Liliuokalani would become the eighth and last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This house of the foreign captain John Dominis would be her final home until she died at Washington Place in November 1917. Today Washington Place exists as a memorial to Queen Liliuokalani in keeping with the intent of the 1921 purchase of the home by the Territory of Hawaii from the Queen’s estate to provide an executive mansion for Hawaii’s governors. The state of Hawaii recently spent more than $1 million on essential maintenance such as a new roof and termite and structural repair. An essential part of the preservation of this historic home is the Washington Place Foundation, started by Vicky Cayetano when she was first lady. The foundation has as its mission the encouragement of interest in the house and also provides support for the continual upkeep of Washington Place. An interesting note is that the current president of the foundation, Louise "Gussie" Schubert, is a descendent — the great-great-granddaughter — of Captain Dominis. Her mother, aunt and uncle were born in Washington Place in a bedroom upstairs. That creates a pretty strong tie with the efforts of the foundation. Architecturally it was designed in the Greek Revival style and built by master carpenter Isaac Hart. The ground-floor walls and columns surrounding the house were built of coral quarried not far from the house. Originally, the veranda ran completely around the exterior, but over the years modifications have added a porch and lanai on the Diamond Head side of Washington Place. Back to one of Mary Dominis’ early boarders and the impact he had on her mansion. U.S. Commissioner Anthony Ten Eyck moved in shortly after the house was built and was so inspired by its stately elegance that he pushed to have it christened, "to honor the great, the good, the illustrious George Washington." Kamehameha III liked the name so much that he decreed it would be called Washington Place "in all time coming." This house has served as the official residence of 12 territorial and state governors. A new governor’s mansion was built adjacent to Washington Place in 2002. Washington Place was given the honor of being declared a National Historic Landmark in 2007. It is open for visitation to the public by appointment by calling 536-8040. A longtime tradition will be held once again when the foundation hosts a joyous Christmas opening for the public in mid-December. Call 536-8040 for more information on this holiday event. Keep Hawaii Hawaii is a monthly column on island architecture and urban planning. Robert M. Fox, president of Fox Hawaii Inc., studied architecture in California and Japan. He was one of the founders of the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation in 1974. David Cheever, owner of David Cheever Marketing, has served on the boards of the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and the Hawaii Architectural Foundation. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Story Lava stalls 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road Next Story Civil Defense: Lava flow front 'relatively cold'