Today these three houses dating from the beginning of the times of the missionaries, are protected as a national historic landmark and have been opened to the public as a museum. They are the oldest buildings standing which were created in a western style and comprise the Mission House (1821), the Chamberlain House (1831), built by Levi Chamberlain for himself and his family of eight when they came to Honolulu from Vermont in 1823, and the printing works (1841). It was here that books in the Hawaiian language, used by missionaries as a written language, were first printed.
Mission Houses Museum Map
553 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813-3002, United States
10am-4pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Entrance fee in USD:
Adult $10.00, Senior over 55 $8.00, Military discount $8.00, Students $6.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Closed holidays.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
On the one hand missionaries contributed to Hawaiian culture by creating an alphabet essential to the preservation of Hawaiian, hitherto purely a spoken language; on the other hand they helped erase Hawaiian culture by their spreading of Christianity. Kamehameha II, who in 1819 had participated in the destruction of the traditional kapus, viewed the missionaries with mistrust, curtailed their stay to one year and allocated them a barren place somewhere between Waikiki and present-day Downtown Honolulu in which to live. They could only construct a few grass huts there, which afforded them little shelter and the dry earth made farming on a large scale impossible.
Shortly before Christmas 1820 parts of a wooden house arrived on board a freighter from Boston. The missionaries could not erect it, however, as they needed permission from the king to stay where they were for more than a year. Just before the end of the year the king came to make an inspection. He visited a class belonging to the school held in one of the grass huts, ate a sumptuous meal, allowed himself to be persuaded by the missionaries ideas and granted them permission to stay for longer.
As a result of this, work began immediately on the first house, which can now be visited. Of course, few of the original furnishings have survived although two large desks from the 1830s (sent to Honolulu from Boston) and a rocking chair (designed by the missionaries' leader, Father Hiram Bingham - for the king and his queen, Kaahumanu), still exist. Two hurricane lamps from New England, almost 250 years old, can also be seen.
The printing press, now located in the printing house, is certainly not the original. It is certain, however, that it is a true copy of the original press, on which the first Hawaiian words were printed.
A second printing press from that time is to be found at Lahaina (Maui), on the campus of Lahainaluna Seminary.
Tours of the houses take place daily during opening times.
On Saturdays, a program entitled "Honolulu 1831" is presented on the lawn, during which visitors have the opportunity to meet Hawaiians. A Mission Houses Fancy Fair takes place annually, though at different times of the year, selling mainly craftwork made by native artists.