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Walking Tour of Historic Honolulu

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King Kamehameha I Statue
Statue of Kamehameha I, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii

Statue of Kamehameha I, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii

Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

Walking towards King Street from the front of ʻIolani Palace, you will see the large statue of King Kamehameha I across the street.

King David Kalākaua commissioned a statue of Kamehameha I in 1878. At the time a kahuna (priest) is said to have commented that the statue would only feel at home if it rested in the lands of Kamehameha's birth.

Thomas Gould, an American sculptor living in Italy was commissioned to do a sculpture. He used John Baker, a part Hawaiian and friend of Kalākaua, as his model. Gould was paid $10,000 and his sculpture was sent to Paris for bronzing. It was then put on a ship bound for Hawaii, but the ship sank off the Falkland Islands. It was thought that the statue was lost forever.

With money collected from insurance a new statue was commissioned and that statue arrived in Honolulu in 1883. It stands in front of Aliʻiolani Hale, the Hawaii Supreme Court Building on King Street. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Honolulu. Twice a year, on May Day and for Kamehameha Day on June 11, it is adorned with leis.

Within weeks of the arrival of the new statue, the original statue also arrived in Honolulu, having been salvaged and located in a junk yard in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. The English captain that had found it sold it to King Kalākaua. Remembering the prophecy of the old kahuna, the original statue was send to the town of Kapaʻau, near Kamehameha's birthplace on the Big Island of Hawaii where it stands today.

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