Don Burciaga from the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association wiped down the King Kamehameha statue in Hilo Monday. The statue underwent a restoration in which 23-karat gilding was added to the king's cape and headpiece.

Kamehameha statue
to be blessed

A statue of King Kamehameha, looking regal and resplendent again after a $30,000 restoration, is to be blessed during traditional lei-draping ceremonies in Hilo tomorrow evening on the eve of the state holiday in his honor.

The 14-foot statue that overlooks Hilo Bay in Wailoa State Park has been undergoing restoration since May 21 after its gold leaf began decaying 2 1/2 years ago, less than five years after it was unveiled on June 10, 1997.

The restoration was completed Monday, and scaffolding was removed the next day, said Terry Plunkett, chairman of the statue committee of the Mamalahoe region of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association.

The statue prematurely decayed because of inadequate adhesive that was originally put on at the Fracaro Foundry in Vicenza, Italy, according to Glenn Wharton of New York City, the lead conservator on the restoration and an expert in outdoor sculpture.

The flaking gold leaf exposed the bright red primer used to protect the bronze, he said. As a result, the bare primer began to chalk and flake away, leaving the underlying bronze exposed to Hilo's harsh elements.

The undercoating was water-soluble, which allowed water to seep in and cause further flaking, Plunkett said.

Wharton sent samples to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and had the gold leaf analyzed at the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles. He also communicated with the foundry in Italy that made the statue.

The experts determined the glue used to hold the golf leaf down was failing.

The problem was resolved through a process of priming and high-quality 23-karat gilding the statue with a stronger glue compound.

The alumni group paid half of the $30,000 restoration cost, and the state will pay the other half, Plunkett said. The Mamalahoe chapter is also trying to establish a $10,000 maintenance fund, he said.

The statue, although similar to those in Honolulu and Hawi on the Big Island, is not a copy, Plunkett said.

"Our statue is bigger, and the face looks different," he said. "I think it looks like President Clinton."

The statue was commissioned by the owners of the Princeville resort on Kauai, who planned to place it there. But Hawaiian groups objected, saying it was inappropriate since Kamehameha never conquered Kauai, according to Plunkett.

Princeville then gave the statue to the alumni chapter, which paid the $106,000 cost of shipping it from Kauai to Hilo and installing it in Wailoa Park.

The first statue of Kamehameha the Great was lost when the ship carrying it to Hawaii sank Nov. 15, 1880, in the Atlantic off the Falkland Islands. A replacement statue was ordered, and unveiled Feb. 14, 1883, in front of the Judiciary building on King Street in Honolulu, where it stands today.

Hawaiian Historical Society:


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --