History

Washington Place was begun in 1841 by the American trader, Captain John Dominis, when Hawai`i was an independent kingdom, ruled by the son of Kamehameha the Great, Kauikeaouli―King Kamehameha III. It is perhaps best known as the home of Queen Lili`uokalani who arrived at the elegant mansion in 1862, as the young bride of John Owen Dominis, son of the captain. It would remain her residence for 55 years, a home she fondly described as:

“…a large, square, white house, with pillars and porticos on all sides, really a palatial dwelling, as comfortable in its appointments as it is inviting in its aspect…a choice tropical retreat in the midst of the chief city of the Hawaiian Islands.”

Designed and constructed by Isaac Hart, the elegant Greek-Revival house rose on the fringe of the village of Honolulu, towering over the barren landscape and native thatched houses. Hart built another grand mansion around this time that would become the royal palace of King Kamehameha III when he moved the capital from Lahaina to Honolulu in 1845.

As Captain Dominis’ house drew near completion in 1846, he sailed for China on a trade mission. The tragic disappearance of his ship at sea left Mary Dominis a widow and she found it necessary to rent suites in her new mansion. In 1847, the U.S. Commissioner, the first prominent lodger, established the U.S. Legation here. Inspired by its stately elegance, he sought to christen the home in 1848, to honor of the “great, the good, the illustrious Washington,” and the memory of his countryman, Captain Dominis. By royal decree, King Kamehameha III commanded that the name be retained “in all time coming.
 

Captain John Dominis, Courtesy of the Dominis Family