By Thomas A. Woods, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mission Houses Museum, April 18, 2011
Mission Houses Museum dedicated Kahua Ho`okipa, a performance garden, on April 15, 2011. The event featured an oli by Mihana Souza and a blessing by Kahu Curt Kekuna, Senior Pastor of Kawaiaha`o Church. Kualoa provided music and Kalehuapuakea, with Keu Ostrem, Kumu hula, performed hula. The Sounds of Aloha Barbershop Chorus served up harmony, while participants enjoyed pupu from Mission Houses Café and Tea Parlor.
Intended to initiate collaboration and engage the community, the project depended on community volunteers, with all labor and equipment provided by volunteers. The design was created by Rick Quinn of Helber, Hastert, and Fee Planners. Hawthorne CAT donated heavy equipment for three weekends to move coral blocks and earth, and United Truck Rental donated the use of a truck. Teddi Anderson, The Limtiaco Company President, assisted with public relations and connected the Mission Houses Museum with Chris Giannaris of Hawthorne CAT. The Rotary Club of Metropolitan Honolulu provided the base of volunteer labor. That group was supported by the Rotary Club of East Honolulu. Earl Kawa`a and employees of Kamehameha Schools, as well as members of Kawaiaha`o Church provided important assistance. Darcy Builders, Inc. donated the use of a jumping jack earth packer and other equipment. Individuals like Adrian Klasovsky, arborist, donated their skills. Charles Black and members of his family—Jeff and his daughters Cassandra and Keeley Bontag—helped operate the heavy equipment and provide construction advice and labor. Hui Ku Maoli Ola donated Native Hawaiian Plants. A range of donors provided financial donations to pay for the soil, plants, and sod necessary to make the project happen. Finally, Paepae o He`eia accepted the remaining coral blocks for use in the walls of He`eia Fishpond.
The blocks used in creating the Kahua Ho`okipa came from the old court house that was built in 1851 and demolished in 1968.
The first official court cases in Hawai`i were held at the stone house of Governor Kekuanao`a within the walls of the old Honolulu Fort. When the fort went into decline, Governor Kekuanao`a ceased to use the stone house, and court was moved to temporary locations beginning in 1846.(1) After much disagreement and changes of plans, the government chose a location close to the fort on the Diamond Head side, fronting Queen Street, with Fort Street to the Ewa side.
The coral was cut by prisoners in the summer and fall of 1851, and coral block work was completed by February 1852 (2). By 1857, the court house served as an archive, containing records for the collector of customs and registrar of conveyances. The court house was an elegant space, with a life-size portrait of Kamehameha V hanging on the wall of the lobby and a portrait of Kamehameha I on the opposite wall. The courtyard was equally handsome, with a fine ornate iron fence imported from England surrounding the grounds and a spring-fed fountain at the corner of Queen and Fort streets by 1870 (3).
The court house quickly became the center of Honolulu political and social life. The hub of judicial and legislative activities in Hawai`i, the building was also completed in time for the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society to hold its second ever annual meeting there on June 1, 1852. This was the first non-governmental use of the building.
The court house also hosted many other events important in the history of Honolulu and Hawai`i.
• Foreign citizens held church services in the court house for several years, beginning in 1852.
• The Land Commission offices were located on the first floor in December 1852 at the time the Commission was awarding claims under the Mahele.
• The annual meeting of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society continued holding annual meetings there, and, in 1854, held its annual meeting and agricultural fair on the grounds.
• On July 18, and July 20, 1853, citizens protested at the court house against the government’s handling of the small pox epidemic.
• On September 7, 1853, a meeting was held to form a mechanics association to assist working men.
• On April 29, 1854, the school commission was elected at the court house.
• Concerts were held there, also. For instance, on May 4, 1854, Mrs. Fiddes presented a concert.
• On July 4, 1854, and in future years, American residents gathered to celebrate Independence Day with a ball and fireworks.
• On November 16, 1854, the ladies of Honolulu put on a fair to benefit the Masons and Odd Fellows.
• On June 5, 1856, Prince Lot Kamehameha held a ball there.
• The Chinese merchants of Honolulu and Lahaina threw a ball to honor the king and queen. It was reputed to be one of the fanciest affairs to date.
• Organizers formed the Queen’s Hospital at the court house on May 25, 1859.
• King Lunalilo was elected at the court house on January 8, 1873, and King Kalakaua was also elected there on February 12, 1874.
• The court house was damaged by riots when Queen Emma’s supporters protested the election of King Kalakaua.
• Legislative sessions were held at the court house until after the election of King Kalakaua and the completion of Ali`iolani Hale(4).
After Ali`iolani Hale was completed in 1874, court house and legislative functions moved to the new building (5), and the court house was eventually sold to H. Hackfeld. The building contained the company’s main offices from 1874 until 1902, when the new American Factors Building was built in downtown Honolulu. Between 1902 and 1968, the building went through a variety of uses, including offices, a grocery, and feed warehouse (6).
The old Honolulu Fort had been built in 1816 of adobe and then rebuilt of coral block in 1831.
The Fort stood across from the court house for twenty-six years. Both buildings occupied a historically important point of land called Pakaka (The Point) that consisted of shallow coral (7). When the Fort was dismantled in 1857, the coral blocks that had composed its walls filled in the shallow reef in that area, creating 16 additional acres of land and 2,000 additional feet of waterfront (8). This area was later called the “Esplanade,” on old maps and was also known as “`Aina-hou.” It includes the parking lot makai of the Topa Towers, which is officially known as Irwin Park today, and Aloha Tower area and pier (9).
The court house lived on for a century longer than the old fort, but when new high rises began springing up throughout downtown, the proud old court house was demolished in December 1968 (10).
Mission Houses Museum was planning major restoration and interpretive program planning as part of the organization’s sesquicentennial in 1968. Thurston Twigg-Smith was president of the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Board of Trustees. Twigg-Smith was also appointed by the governor to be a representative on the Historical Park Commission. It was this relationship that helped bring the coral blocks to Mission Houses Museum. He received a letter from Miss Nancy Bannick, Chairman of the Historic Buildings Task Force, asking for the Society’s support in trying to save the court house, which Amfac planned to remove at the end of the year. She asked if HMCS could act as “a legal entity” to accept a donation of the building and $25,000 from Amfac to move and restore it at an alternative site. The Board approved the request (11). In the end, HMCS ended up accepting some of the coral blocks that were demolished from the court house (12). They remained in a pile in the backyard from 1968 until 2011, when the Kahua Ho`okipa was built.
 Richard A. Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” Hawaii Historical Review 1:5 (October 1863) 77, 79-80.
Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 79-80.
 Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 82.
 Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 83-4.
 Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 84.
 Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 85.
 Greer, “Along the Old Honolulu Waterfront,” The Hawaiian Journal of History 32 (1998) 56.
 Greer, “A Sketch of Ke-Kua-Nohu, 1845-1850, with Notes of Other Times Before and After,” The Hawaiian Journal of History 2 (1968) 33.
 Greer, “The Old Court House on Queen Street,” 81; Samuel M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawai`i, (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools, 1961) 419.
 Gorham Gilman, edited by Jean S. Sharpless and Richard A. Greer, “1848—Honolulu As It Is—Notes for Amplification,” Hawaiian Journal of History 4 (1970) 122.
 “Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society,” March 7, 1968, HMCS Administrative Office.
 No actual letters or minutes have been found that document the arrival of the blocks, but Charles Black was a member of the Board of Directors, and he remembers the arrival of the blocks in early 1969. They are also noted on a concept drawing completed for Mission Houses Museum restoration by Frost and Frost, Architects, 1969, Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library and Archives.