Preserving Hawaii’s Special History

By J. Mahealani Bernal, Queen Emma Summer Palace Coordinator

During the early 1900s, historic preservation was unheard of in Hawaii. Led by Emma Dillingham, seven women moved toward the formation of a society that would become instrumental in preserving two of three royal palaces in Hawaii. Determined and purposed with intent, they founded Daughters of Hawaii in 1903, focusing on the preservation of Queen Emma Summer Palace, Hulihee Palace in Kona and the birthplace of King Kamehameha III. For the past century, Daughters of Hawaii has continued “to perpetuate the memory and spirit of Old Hawaii and to preserve the nomenclature and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian language.”


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J. Mahealani Bernal

Today, the palaces represent the richness of our living Hawaiian history and culture, enjoyed by all who visit our Hawaiian museums and who participate in the classes offered. Haumana Anita Okimoto Hulihee, office manager and kumu hula, says “being taught hula … (at) Hulihee … taught us not to take what we have for granted but appreciate what we have left and … (become) stewards of this place. Knowing of the rich history of the Alii …(and) those who resided at Hulihee, we are humbled by our past and we cannot forget.”

Volunteers Leina’ala Chee and Donna Craven are “touched” as they serve visitors. “The palace has awakened me to my true heritage, which is so rich and precious,” says Chee. Craven enjoys volunteering at Queen Emma Summer Palace as a way of “giving back to Hawaiians and (sharing) the history of these amazing Islands.” Docent Travis Cummings echoed Craven’s sentiment, saying, “In our modern chaotic times, Hanaiakamalama, the palace, provides me a connection to solid roots of the Alii Nui and classical Hawaii Nei.”

Now in its second century, Daughters of Hawaii faces the challenge of preserving the palaces as they age, and the collection of artifacts require constant attention. Income comes from museum admission, gift shop sales, membership dues and donations. Additionally, facility rentals and annual fundraisers, “Day at Hulihee Palace” and “Day at Queen Emma Summer Palace,” also contribute to operational costs. For more information, visit; call 595-6291.

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