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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 11, 2002

Moving out of Washington Place

 •  Washington Place museum to focus on Lili'uokalani
 •  Inside the governor's residence
 •  Graphic: In the style of the Place

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's next governor will live in a home that looks from the outside remarkably like the current governor's residence, 156-year-old Washington Place.

A lanai wraps around the entire first floor of the new governor's residence, a feature that helps convey the open-air feel of the historic building. Washington Place, in the background, will be converted to a museum that tells the story of Queen Lili'uokalani, who once lived in the building that has been home to 12 governors since territorial days.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Inside, however, the new home will be more modern, with space and features befitting a chief executive. It is designed to reflect Island traditions as well as accommodate the preferences and privacy of each new family that moves in.

The $1.2-million, 5,000-square-foot home nearing completion on one acre of land behind the existing governor's residence will be ready for occupancy by November, just in time for the newly elected governor to start making move-in plans.

"From the outside, the new home complements the old one but doesn't duplicate it," said first lady Vicky Cayetano, who headed the drive to design and build the new residence. "It's got the same spirit, but nothing is exactly the same."

The home, built largely off the public radar and without public money, is the first step in a two-part process that eventually will create a museum and public reception area in the existing Washington Place, which has been home to 12 governors since territorial days but is best known as the one-time residence of Queen Lili'uokalani.

Changing Washington Place into a museum facility that tells Lili'uokalani's story would not be possible without moving the governor's residence out of the existing second floor, said curator Jim Bartels.

For years, Hawai'i governors and their families have been cramped into a relatively small, dark area of Washington Place, while the rest of the building was given over to public functions.

More than once, guests attending a swank function on the home's gracious lanai were surprised to see a member of the first family slipping down the stairs in shorts to grab a drink or something to eat in the kitchen, which sometimes doubles as an office for Bartels.

"We want to give the family a space to be alone," Vicky Cayetano said. "The staff won't go into the residence unless it is requested."

The new building went from idea to reality in just three years, helped in large part by a group of people who came together behind the first lady to form the Washington Place Foundation, raise money and come up with a design that has one foot in the 19th century and one in the 21st.

"If we had to do this with government funds, it might have taken a decade," Cayetano said, with just a hint of exaggeration in her voice. In fact, when the foundation asked for public money, the state Legislature rejected the request.

Instead of a lengthy, bureaucratic process, Bartels and Cayetano put together a small, well-connected committee to decide what future governors would want and need in a private residence.

The committee included interior designer Mary Philpotts, architectural historic preservation specialist Glenn Mason, architect Previn Desai, and furniture store owner Bob Wo.

The committee worked on everything from finding traditional fabrics to creating a facade that matches the old building.

"There were lots of disagreements — plenty," Bartels said.

One continuing argument had to do with the amount of space allotted to the interior and exterior parts of the house.

To more closely resemble the open-air feel of the historic building, Mason argued strongly for a lanai that wrapped around the entire first-floor footprint as well as an extended porte-cochère (carriage entrance through a wall) and second-floor balcony extending from the master bedroom.

Desai, working on the interior, tried to provide as much actual living space as possible.

Outside, the new building reflects the simple, gracious lines of the original building, which has been remodeled and extended three times — in 1922, 1929 and 1953.

From simple things such as the plain white paint and asphalt roof shingles, to more complex features such as the square columns, the architects worked hard to tie the two buildings together.

The long line of a new porte-cochère reaches out from the new building in the direction of the old building's long lanai.

"It was really important philosophically that the building feel authentic," Bartels said. "We didn't want anything cute or just old-fashioned."

Inside, the new second floor has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a balcony and a TV-exercise area that will be left unfurnished so each incoming governor can fine-tune the interior.

The first floor includes a two-story open living area, family room, a kitchen with island dining counter, a bathroom and an office-library space that could be converted into a fourth bedroom, if a governor had a large family.

A formal dining room will accommodate only eight people comfortably, insuring that larger gatherings will still be held in Washington Place.

The first floor will be furnished at foundation expense in a 1950s style that includes popular McGuire furniture, lots of rattan touches and Hawaiiana details. The wrap-around lanai adds nearly 2,000 square feet of useable space to the home.

The residence sits on a part of the Washington Place parcel that previously held a small service quarters and a garden. The three acres of land on which Washington Place sits have long been owned by the state, and the foundation is donating the home to the state.

The foundation expects the state to continue its $230,000-a-year allotment for the operation of Washington Place, not counting maintenance services provided by the Department of Accounting and General Services, security from the Department of Public Safety, and the yard work done by the Department of Land and Natural Resources along with other state grounds.

Donors will get their first glimpse of the new residence Friday, when the foundation hosts a reception featuring several film stars.

According to Bartels, the public will get plenty of chances to see the new home later.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5460.

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