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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Washington Place still home for governors

Hawai'i's governors have never been too thrilled at the prospect of living on the less-than-private second floor of Washington Place. It's a great place for a museum but not an ideal home.

With that in mind, Gov. Ben Cayetano always held that the antiquated mansion where Queen Lili'uokalani died in 1917 should be turned over to Hawaiian groups.

So a compromise has been struck for future first families to enjoy elegance, privacy and security in the leafy oasis across from the State Capitol.

First Lady Vicky Cayetano and historian Jim Bartels, with the generous help of private donors, have succeeded in building a more suitable governor's residence on the grounds of Washington Place. The original mansion will be restored to a stately venue for pomp and circumstance and a public museum that tells Queen Lili'uokalani's amazing story.

In a tribute to historic preservation, Washington Place has now been added to the downtown Honolulu arts and museum circuit, which includes the new Hawai'i State Art Museum in the Hemmeter Building and 'Iolani Palace.

Aside from housing a dozen governors, Washington Place has hosted thousands of visitors, from the queen of England and the emperor of Japan to baseball legend Babe Ruth. It was built in 1842 by Capt. John Dominis, who was lost at sea en route to China. His widow turned the mansion into a boarding house.

In 1862, Lili'uokalani moved in after she married the captain's son, John Owen Dominis. After the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, Lili'uokalani was arrested on charges of plotting to regain power.

A half-decade later during the U.S. annexation of Hawai'i, Lili'uokalani watched from Washington Place as the American flag was raised over 'Iolani Palace. The Territory of Hawai'i acquired the mansion in 1921 as living quarters for standing governors.

That's quite a history.

As for the new 5,000-square-foot governor's residence, it's quietly elegant, functional and ready for Lingle to move right in.

We hope she appreciates this fitting legacy created by Cayetano and Bartels, and we also hope Bartels is kept on as the curator of Washington Place.

We can't think of anyone better qualified for the position.