Standing one hundred feet tall, the Hawaii* State Capitol building is surrounded by a reflecting pool and was designed to resemble a volcano. Located in Honolulu, Oahu it was built in the 1960's to replace the territorial capitol, Iolani Palace. It is the current seat of the Hawaiian state legislature and governor's office.


Honolulu was named the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810 by King Kamehameha. The monarchy was overthrown in 1894 and annexed to the United States in 1898; Hawaii officially became a territory in 1900. Iolani Palace was used as the seat of government from 1894 to 1969, when the current capitol building was completed.


Designed and built by the firms John Carl Warnecke Associates and Belt, Lemon, and Lo, work began in 1960, one year after Hawaii was granted statehood. It took nine years - four years of design work and five years of construction - and approximately $24.5 million to complete construction; the capitol was dedicated on March 15, 1969 by Governor John A. Burns. An additional $67 million was spent on renovations, including an underground parking structure, in 1995.


  • External

    Built in the International Style, it is one of only two state capitol buildings built in this style (the other is in Florida), and features a pavilion top which is meant to resemble the Punchbowl volcano on Oahu. The reflecting pool, representing the Pacific Ocean, accentuates Hawaii's status as the only island state. Forty columns surrounding the building symbolize royal palm trees, native to Hawaii. Columns at the top of the structure are placed in groups of eight for the eight islands in the Hawaiian chain (Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii.)

    Statues are featured at the two entrances of the capitol, and above both entrances hang large bronze discs with the state seal. On the makai (ocean) side stands The Spirit of Liliuokalani, a bronze statue of Queen Liliuokalani holding three documents: Kumulipo, the Hawaiian chant of creation; Aloha 'Oe, a song she had written; and the constitution of the kingdom. On the mauka (mountain) side stands a statue of Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, who tended to the lepers on Molokai in the 1800's. Next to the statue of Father Damien stands a replica of the Liberty Bell, a gift to Hawaii by the federal government in 1950. The Korean/Vietnam War Memorial, dedicated to the Hawaiian veterans of those wars, stands on the ewa (west) side of the capitol.

  • Internal

    • Courtyard

      In the center of the capitol is the main courtyard, open to the elements and meant to evoke a caldera along with the openness of the people and islands of Hawaii. A mosaic enititled Aquarius by Hawaiian artist Tadashi Sato is made from tiles imported from Italy and symbolizes the varying patterns and colors of the sea surrounding the state.

    • The House Chamber

      A chandelier titled Sun by artist Otto Piene made from gold-plated copper and brass hangs from the ceiling of the volcanic-shaped chamber. The warm earth-toned color scheme is continued with a large tapestry of geometric shapes by Ruthadell Anderson hanging behind the desk of the Speaker of the House; the artwork is comprised of almost eight hundred pounds of wool yarn. Walls of the chamber are made from basaltic rock.

    • The Senate Chamber

      Located across from the House Chamber, the Senate is decorated in sea and sky colors, and features a chandelier titled Moon, also designed by Piene, made from chambered nautilus shells and polished aluminum. Hanging behind the desk of the President of the Senate is another tapestry made by Anderson, designed with geometric shapes and staying with the cool sky/water color motif. Approximately 842,000 Ghiordes knots were used in making the tapestry, which took sixteen people around a year to complete.

    • The Executive Chamber

      The offices of the governor and lieutenant governor are located on the fifth floor. Panelling and furniture are made from Hawaiian native woods, in particular koa wood, also known as "Hawaiian mahogany." Displays featuring items from the Bishop Museum are located on either side of the door leading to the governor's ceremonial room, and portraits of former Hawaiian governors are hung on the walls.

*The official spelling used by both the state and federal government for Hawaii.