Sunday, August 19, 2001

First lady Vicky Cayetano wants to convert
Washington Place from the governor's residence
into a combination reception area, museum and gallery.

First lady makes
strides to convert
Washington Place

Vicky Cayetano has raised
$1.2 million for renovations

See previous: 360 photos of Washington Place

By Richard Borreca

A series of successful fund-raisers are fueling first lady Vicky Cayetano's optimism that Washington Place can become a combination reception area, museum and gallery by the time the next governor is sworn in.

To do that, Cayetano said she hopes to break ground on a new governor's residence to be built with private funds along the back of the present Washington Place property.

About $1.2 million has been raised, including a $200,000 appropriation from the Legislature.

Under the first lady's direction, a private nonprofit organization, Friends of Washington Place, was formed to handle the fund raising, renovation and preservation of Washington Place and the construction of the new residence.

On a tour earlier this year, Vicky Cayetano showed
the home's second floor, with bookcases outside a bedroom.

The plan is to put control of Washington Place under a private board with private funding, while the state's first family has control of the new residence.

She said it will be a two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath house, costing about $1 million.

She says the state plans to tear down 1940s-vintage unused servants quarters along the mauka boundary and start building a new house by the first of the year.

The new house will be patterned after Washington Place.

"We call them living quarters, not a residence, because future governors will continue to reside here, they will not move out, but merely take the daily wear and tear into this new house," she said.

"The land it sits on is not part of the Queen's original property."

Washington Place is one of Hawaii's most historic structures. It was the home of Queen Liliuokalani, who in 1862 married John Owen Dominis, son of the home's original owners.

Since then it has been the home to Hawaii's governors since 1918, when territorial Gov. Charles McCarthy leased the property. About the same time one of the Queen's heirs, Prince Kuhio Kalanianaole, suggested that the property be purchased by the territory.

Queen Liliuokalani's music room in Washington
Place, including a koa piano that was a birthday
gift to the queen.

In 1921 the territory bought the property through condemnation for $55,000.

"Governors will continue to entertain there," Cayetano said about Washington Place, but she hopes the new residence will "give you the kind of privacy that is necessary to maintain a normal family life."

Architect Glenn Mason, who specializes in historic preservation, restoration and research, surveyed the house for the foundation and said in his report that while Washington Place is solid, it is difficult to keep it as both a historic structure and day-to-day living quarters.

The second story, he said, is "very disjointed ... resulting from years of renovations and the constraints created by grafting addition on to the original Washington Place plan."

"The family usually reaches their residence by going through the kitchen to the informal dining area and then up narrow back stairs added during the Waihee administration," he said in his report.

The only other way to the second floor is through the formal koa staircase, which is kept blocked with a series of state flags.

The arrangement, according to Cayetano, makes it difficult to raise a family in the house.

"The hardest thing to adjust to was the loss of privacy," Cayetano said.

According to Cayetano, the operation and responsibility of Washington Place would change in that the private nonprofit group will actually be in charge of the historic structure, while the governor will have the run of the new residence.

"In the day-to-day budget given by the Legislature, within the governor's budget, a certain amount is allocated for Washington Place, and that doesn't change," Cayetano said.

But Washington Place will be under the control of the nonprofit board, Friends of Washington Place.

Asked if she thought a new governor could decide what would be placed on exhibit at Washington Place, Cayetano said: "No. He could ask, but I doubt if he would get it.

"That is the whole thing the board is designed to do: to exercise more authority. In the past that is exactly what would have happened; now it won't happen.

"Even the use of Washington Place will be overseen by a board, but not the living quarters. They can do whatever they want there."

She added that the work is being guided by Jim Bartels, former Iolani Palace curator and Washington Place director.

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