Queen Emma was the wife of King Kamehameha IV. She used travel with her family to the historic Nu'uanu Valley in the mid-1800s as an escape from the demands of court life in hot, dusty Honolulu. Here, in this lush, cool valley, the King and Queen, together with their young son, Prince Albert Edward, had some of their happiest times together.
Their "summer palace'' has quite a history. It was actually a Victorian-style house built in 1848 by John Lewis, a part-Hawaiian businessman, who had bought the property from the Hawaiian Government. The house frame and siding were allegedly cut in Boston and shipped via Cape Horn to Oahu. Two years later, Lewis sold the estate for $6,000 to Queen Emma's uncle, John Young II.
When the uncle died childless in 1857, he willed the property to his niece, making Queen Emma the official owner. Then, when she passed away in 1885, the home was purchased by the Hawaiian Monarchy and leased out to tenants. But in the early 1900s, when plans were drawn up to turn the estate into a park, the Daughters of Hawaii stepped in and claimed the house for restoration as a museum.
Established in 1903, the Daughters of Hawaii was founded by seven daughters of American Protestant missionaries. They were born in the Islands as citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom before annexation. When they foresaw the potential loss of Hawaiian culture, they banded together "to perpetuate the memory and spirit of old Hawaii and of historic facts.''
The Palace was subsequently refurbished and many of the original furnishings were returned to their home. Today, the museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, it houses a collection of Queen Emma's personal belongings, including 19th-century furnishings, artifacts and memorabilia. The estate also goes by the name "Hanaiakamalama,'' which means "foster child of the moon,'' a reference to royalty's ancestral home on the Island of Hawaii.
Membership dues, admission fees, fundraising activities, grants, and donations to the Daughters of Hawaii are used for upkeep. Admission to the Palace is $6 for adults, $1 for children, and $4 for kamaaina (local residents). Admission is free to current members of the Daughters of Hawaii (i.e., Daughters and Calabash Cousins).
The Queen Emma Summer Palace is open from 8am to 4pm seven days a week, except major holidays. Its Emmalani Hale and Prince Albert Terrace are both available for rental as well as for visits, and the museum has become a popular venue for weddings, business meetings, and other events, with a capacity of up to 100 participants.
One other feature here is a gift shop located directly behind the Summer Palace. It offers hand-crafted items, most of which have been made exclusively for the shop. Also for sale are books on Hawaii, and there are unique cards and gifts particularly well suited to weddings.
The Queen Emma Summer Palace is located at 2913 Pali Highway, Honolulu, HI 96817, easily reached by car or bus from downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. Plenty of free parking space is available.