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'Iolani Palace is situated in the capitol district of downtown Honolulu in the State of Hawai'i. It is the only royal palace used as an official residence by a reigning monarch in the United States and as such was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two monarchs governed from 'Iolani Palace, King David Kalakaua and Queen Lili'uokalani.
The 'Iolani Palace structure that exists today is actually the second 'Iolani Palace to sit on the palace grounds. The original 'Iolani Palace, built during the reign of Kamehameha IV, was a one-story building made out of coral. The building was named, "Iolani Palace," after one of Kamehameha IV's given names (his full name was Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani). It served as the official residence of the monarch during the reigns of Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V, Lunalilo, and the first part of Kalakaua's reign. The original structure was very simple in design and was more of a stately home than a palace.
King Kamehameha V was the first monarch to envision a royal palace befitting of the sovereignty of a modern state such as Hawai'i. He commissioned the construction of Al'iolani Hale to be the official palace of the Hawaiian monarchy. The building was constructed across the street from the original Iolani Palace structure. At the time, Hawaii needed a government building badly, since the government buildings of the time were small and cramped. Ultimately, Ali'iolani Hale became an administrative building instead of a palace, housing the judiciary of the Kingdom of Hawai'i and various other ministries.
By the time David Kalakaua assumed the throne, the original 'Iolani Palace was in bad shape, suffering from severe termite damage. He ordered the palace to be razed.
Kalakaua was the first monarch to travel around the world. While visiting other sovereign states of the world, he took note of the grand palaces owned by other monarchs. Like Kamehameha V, he dreamt of a royal palace befitting of the sovereignty of a modern state such as Hawai'i. He commissioned the construction a new 'Iolani Palace, directly across the street from Ali'iolani Hale, to become the official palace of the Hawaiian monarchy. The building was completed in 1882 and served as the official residence of the Hawaiian monarch until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
Upon the overthrow of the monarchy by the Committee of Safety in 1893, 'Iolani Palace was converted into the statehouse of the newly formed Provisional Government of Hawai'i. It later became the capitol building of the Republic of Hawai'i, Territory of Hawai'i and State of Hawai'i and housed the offices of their respective governors and legislatures.
Governor of Hawai'i John A. Burns oversaw the construction of the Hawai'i State Capitol directly behind 'Iolani Palace. When the new capitol building was completed in 1969, Governor Burns decided to vacate all government offices from 'Iolani Palace and begin an ambitious restoration project. Governor Burns envisioned the return of 'Iolani Palace to the people of Hawai'i in memory of the beloved royal family that had resided in it decades before. When restoration was completed, 'Iolani Palace was opened to the public in 1978 for tours and special events.
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