O’ahu – Honolulu – Capitol District: Kawaiaha’o Church

O’ahu – Honolulu – Capitol District: Kawaiaha’o Church
Church names
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Kawaiaha’o Church, located at 957 Punchbowl Street, revered as the Protestant "mother church" of Hawai’i and often referred to as the Westminister Abbey of Hawai’i, was dedicated on July 21, 1842. Commissioned by the regency of Ka’ahumanu during the reigns of Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III, the church was designed by Reverend Hiram Bingham in the New England style of the Hawaiian missionaries. Originally functioning as a national church of the Hawaiian Kingdom and chapel of the royal family, Kawaiaha’o was the scene of inaugurations, funerals, and weddings associated with the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The "Stone Church," as it came to be known, was constructed on a site that housed four previous native-style sanctuaries of some 14,000 thousand-pound slabs of coral rock, quarried from an offshore reef off the southern coast of O’ahu. Natives dove 10 to 20 feet to hand-chisel these pieces from the reef, then raised them to the surface, loaded them into canoes, and ferried them to shore. The interior, which was mostly remodeled in the 1920s resulting from rot, was made from wood cut in the Koolau Mountains. The upper gallery of the church is adorned with 21 Hofstot portraits of Hawaiian royalty (Ali’i), beginning with Kamehameha the Great at the far end. A tower clock, referred to as the Kauikeaouli clock in memory of its donor, King Kamehameha III, was manufactured by Howard & Davis Clock Makers and still operates on its original machinery.

The church’s name, Ka wai a Ha’o, means "fresh water pool of Ha’o" in Hawaiian. Prior to the missionaries arriving, the flat plain south of the village of Honolulu was a barren dust bowl, with the exception of a small spring whose waters were reserved exclusivley for the land’s high chiefs and chiefs, including the ancient queen, Ha’o.

Behind the church sits the peaceful Mission Cemetery where the remains of many of Hawaii’s early missionaries, political and economic leaders are buried. Most prominent among them is King William Lunaililo, whose mausoleum is surrounded by a wrought iron fence near the entrance to the church grounds.

National Register #66000294 (1966)