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Wallpaper Scholar
65 South Prospect St.
Lee, MA 01238

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Washington Place (Hawaii)

Washington Place was completed about 1846 and is the oldest wooden residence in the state of Hawaii. It was built by a sea captain, General Dominis, whose wife was from Boston, and whose son, John, later became the govenor of Oahu. The future Queen, Liliuokalani, married General John Dominis in 1862. After her abdication from power in 1893-95 and subsequent imprisionment, the Queen retired to Washington Place and while there wrote "Hawaii's Story" which was first published in 1898.

She petitioned the U.S. government for a re-evaluation of the circumstances surrounding her removal from power. Despite trips to Washington, D.C., to press the point, she was not successful. She died in 1917. She is remembered for much more than her reign, however. For example, the famous song "Aloha Oe" is one of the many musical compositions she is credited with. She remains a most beloved figure of the Hawaiian people.

Washington Place is Greek Revival in style. During research for the wallpaper project, period photos showed that the wallpaper in use in her bedroom around 1880 was a large floral print, typical of the upper middle class taste of the time. For the sidewall paper, "Rosebud Sidewall" (30 s/r) was chosen, and "Victorian Ceiling" (16 s/r) for the ceiling paper; both papers were screenprinted by an Australian company.

The house construction consists of a wood frame and plastered coral blocks. The bedroom, on the first floor, has two walls of plaster (the exterior walls) and two walls of wood planks. The ceiling was also made up of wood planks. During architectural research, scraps of muslin and tacks were found in the room and were dated to the 1880 period. This discovery substantiated that the wood planks had been covered with a muslin or cotton underlayment, prior to the installation of the wallpaper seen in the photos.

This same technique of tacking muslin to the wood was followed in the restoration. Not only would it be historically accurate, but the same advantage (maximum breathability to allow for the free passage of air) would be obtained. The techniques, lining materials and wallpapers specified were all chosen with porosity in mind. Breathability was an important criterion for the wall decorations because of the tropical climate, which is known to encourage the growth of mildew and attacks by insects.

Muslin was sewn off-site to the required widths. Once on site, the muslin was stretched and applied to the wood planks and to battens constructed for the purpose, and fastened securely. A liquid biocide was mixed on site and added to archival wheat and cellulose pastes to protect the paste against mildew and insects. Then a rag paper was pasted and applied to the fabric as a lining paper. Finally the screenprinted papers were pasted and applied to the walls.

The wallpaper part of the contract was a collaboration between Historic Wallpapering Specialties (James Yates) and WRNA (Robert Kelly). Other companies involved in the project in Hawaii were Mason Architects, overseeing the project for the State of Hawai. The general contractor was International Roofing and Building Construction, Inc. of Honolulu.

To learn more about Hawaii and its last Queen, consult the book by the Queen; a paperback is available from Mutual Publishing. It is called "Hawaii's Story" but it is really more of an autobiography and contains much fascinating detail on the history of Hawaii and the last days of the monarchy, written by someone who was there in the thick of it. See: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/liliuokalani/hawaii/hawaii.html

Another good link is from the  PBS Program: The American Experience  

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