Friday, January 5, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 5, 2001

Washington Place proposal would make it a museum

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

First lady Vicky Cayetano wants to convert Washington Place, former home of Queen Liliuokalani, into a museum and build new living quarters for future governors on an adjacent piece of land.

Under the plan, Washington Place would continue to serve as the official governor’s residence where state functions would be held. It would be open daily, with a historical gallery telling the 153-year history of the building and those who have lived in it.

The private upstairs living area of the governor’s mansion would be converted into gallery space. The new living quarters would replace a caretaker’s cottage on the grounds a few hundred feet away, Cayetano said.

"There’s just so much history here, so many stories, that we felt the home should become much more of a museum experience," said Jim Bartels, Washington Place curator.

To make room for the expanded galleries, Hawaii’s future first families would live in a new two-story home that will reflect, but not duplicate, the design of Washington Place, Cayetano said.

"Washington Place would still be the official governor’s residence, but the actual living quarters would be a 20-second walk out the back door," Cayetano said.

The new home would provide better security and privacy for future governors, she said. Although architectural plans have not been developed yet, the building probably will be about 4,000 to 4,500 square feet, a little smaller than existing living quarters, Cayetano said.

A new nonprofit Washington Place Foundation hopes to raise w$1 million in private money for construction of the new residence. It also hopes to raise another $1 million and ask the Legislature to match that figure to renovate the existing building and prepare new gallery spaces and exhibits, she said.

Washington Place, on Beretania Street across from the State Capitol, was built in 1847 in the Greek Revival style as the home of clipper ship captain John Dominis. It later became the home of his son, John Owen Dominis, and the son’s wife, Queen Liliuokalani, who lived out her life there after she was deposed in 1893. The building also has served as the official home of every state governor since territorial days.

"There’s more drama, more history in this building than people ever thought," Bartels said. "Expanding the exhibits and gallery space into the second floor will allow us to tell the rich story of the queen’s life, as well as the history of those who came before her and all the governors who lived here later."

In addition to showing thousands of historical artifacts on a rotating basis, the expanded galleries could take advantage of new advances in museum theory and technology, including "video, audio and experiential enhancements."

"It sounds like a good idea," said Bill Chapman, head of the historic preservation program at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. "We don’t have that many historic homes that you can get access to. "

If money for the project is secured, the new living quarters could be finished by the end of 2002, just in time for the next governor to move in, the first lady said.

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