King Kamehameha I, considered by some the "Napolean of the Pacific," is best remembered for uniting all eight islands under one rule and formally establishing the Hawaiian Kingdom. His warrior strength and regal presence still radiate from the statues erected in his honor.
There are four statues of King Kamehameha I on public display: one in Kamehameha's birthplace in Kohala on the Big Island; a 14-foot, five-ton statue in Hilo; one in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.; and one in downtown Honolulu. The first statue, sculpted by Thomas R. Gould, was lost en route to Hawai'i when its transporting ship caught fire and sank off the Falkland Islands. The statue was later recovered and sent to the Big Island. While the search for the first statue ensued, a second was cast and sent to Honolulu, where King Kalakaua dedicated it in 1883, nearly 65 years after King Kamehameha's death.
From an early age, Kamehameha appeared destined for greatness. At only 14-years-old, Kamehameha became the only person to lift the legendary Naha Stone, weighing over 7,000 pounds. Legend foretold that whoever lifted this three and a half-ton rock would become the first king of Hawai'i. During his 37-year reign, King Kamehameha not only united all the islands of Hawai'i, but also brought prosperity and peace. Kamehameha established trade agreements with foreign countries and developed the sandalwood industry. He also introduced the Law of the Splintered Paddle that protected the weak from the strong, ensuring each citizen had the right to "lie down to sleep by the roadside without fear of harm." King Kamehameha I died on May 8, 1819, and true to ancient Hawaiian tradition, his bones were hidden to protect his mana or spirit/power. While no one to this day knows where he rests, his memory lives on in the replicas built in his honor.
The eight and a half foot tall bronze king stands tall in front of Honolulu's judiciary building across the street from 'Iolani Palace, easily accessible from the downtown area. Donned in brilliant, golden royal attire complete with a helmet of rare feathers and a gilded Kamehameha's left hand clutches a spear, representing the strength of his kingdom and its willingness to defend itself, while his right hand is extended as if only to say "e komo mai," or "welcome."
King Kamehameha is honored each year on June 11th by a state holiday with festivities that include a lei-draping ceremony and floral parade. The sweet fragrances of yellow and pink plumeria and royal ilima flowers waft in the summer air, paying homage to a present-day symbol of strength and unity, whom many consider to be the greatest king of Hawai'i.
- Location: 417 South King Street, Honolulu, HI