HONOLULU — Birthday plans for one of Hawaii’s most esteemed houses are raising concerns about the proposed $53,000 cost while the state deals with significant economic problems stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. David Ige proposed the commemoration of Washington Place, the longtime residence of Queen Liliuokalani and a dozen governors. The Honolulu property, which became a museum and state reception venue nearly two decades ago, turns 175 years old this year.
The $53,000 tab represents a tiny portion of Ige’s proposed $15.4 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But the cost is being questioned in the face of impending cuts to state jobs, programs and services. The state faces projected $1.4 billion revenue shortfalls for each of the next four years.
“What kind of celebration is being planned during COVID, with the inability to gather, that would require that much (money),” state Rep. Lisa Marten, a member of the House Finance Committee, asked Ige chief of staff Linda Chu Takayama during a recent budget hearing.
Takayama said details have not been finalized. The projected costs include $26,000 to print commemorative booklets, about $20,000 for a virtual exhibit, $5,600 for production of a webinar and $1,500 for anniversary pins.
“It’s not a whole lot of money,” Takayama said.
Private donations are expected to match the state’s contribution.
The anniversary event themes, including hope, resiliency and healing, “reflect the spirit of Washington Place and are relevant to us all during this time,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
The two-story house with 17 rooms surrounded by gardens originally was to have been the home of wealthy trader and sea captain John Dominis, who was lost at sea about the time the home was completed in 1846.
The mansion, named after the first U.S. president, became home to Mary Dominis, the merchant’s widow. Their son, John Owen Dominis, married the future Queen Liliuokalani, who lived at Washington Place for 55 years and died there in 1917.
The home has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973 and was designated a national historic landmark in 2007.