Hawai‘i truly is a place of a thousand stories. The stories of Native Hawaiians, American Protestant missionaries, sailors from all over the world, foreign merchants, and their interactions make for a complex history rich with intersecting stories. Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives holds the history of Hawai‘i from 1820 to 1863 (the “missionary period”) and is committed to being a place to share those many stories.
Located in Honolulu’s Historic Capitol District, the historic site was the headquarters of the Sandwich Islands Mission from 1820 to 1863. The mission was supported by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions based in Boston, Massachusetts. The museum complex is comprised of four preserved houses, a research archive, and an active cemetery, all of which provide a unique glimpse into 19th century life in Hawai‘i.
The historic houses are:
- Hale Kamalani (Chamberlain House) was built in 1831 out of coral blocks quarried from the ocean as a home for Levi and Maria Chamberlain and their family, as well as a depository or storage building for mission supplies.
- Ka Hale La`au (The Wooden House) was completed in 1821 and is the oldest still standing house in Hawai‘i. The original lumber for the house was shipped from Boston around Cape Horn in late 1820, and it was a multi-family home for much of its mission history.
- Ka Hale Pa‘i (The Printing House) was originally constructed in 1841 as a bedroom annex to create more housing for more mission families. It is also constructed of coral blocks and contains a working replica of the Ramage Printing Press brought by the missionaries in 1820—the first printing press in the Islands.
- Hale Pili o Nā Mikanele is a reconstruction of the 1823 hale pili o nā mikanele (grass house in the missionary style) first occupied by Reverend William and Clarissa Richards. In planning and construction for a decade, it is the newest component of the Hawaiian Mission Houses’ education programs and site.
The research archives at the Hawaiian Mission Houses contain many of the letters, journals, and reports of the Protestant Missionaries and their descendants. The archives also contain a very important collection of Ali‘i Letters (letters written by Hawai‘i’s chiefs and rulers) and is the custodian of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association archives. Hawaiian Mission Houses maintains the largest collection of Hawaiian language books in the world.
Visitors to the site will be able to take docent-led tours, self-guided tours, and see artifacts in an immersive experience that will take them back to Honolulu in the early to mid-1800s.