Listen to Rev. Kenneth Makuakāne of Kawaiaha'o Church speak about the various historical landmarks and sites throughout our church campus.
Prior to the missionaries arriving, in the midst of the flat plain called Honuakaha just south of the village of Kou (now Honolulu) was a sacred spring whose waters were reserved for the land’s high chiefs and chiefesses. The high ranking fe- male chief Haʻo frequented this spring, and eventually these waters and the surrounding land came to be known as “Ka Wai a Haʻo” - the (sacred) water of Haʻo— for which this church is named. Kawaiaha‘o Church is listed on both the state and national rolls of historic sites. Known as the Protestant "mother church" of Hawaiʻi, Kawaiahaʻo the first church on Oahu (1820).
In 1820, the first missionaries arrived in Hawai'i. They were granted land at Kawaiaha'o for the purpose of establishing their residence, ad thatched houses were erected by local labor on order of King Kamehameha II. Thatched with grass and lined with mats, the first sanctuary was erected in the traditional native manner. Measuring 54 feet by 22 feet, the structure was designed to seat 300. As the congregation continued to grow, and in some cases as the result of fire, three more thatched structures were erected to replace their predecessor until a stone church was built.
The church building was commissioned by Queen Ka'ahumanu during the reigns of Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III and was designed by Rev. Hiram Bingham. As many as a thousand people assembled to dig down to bed rock for the church's foundation. The was contructed between 1836 and 1842 of 14,000 slabs of coral rock. Native Hawaiians dove 10 to 20 feet to hand-chisel these pieces from the reef, raise them to the surface, load them into canoes, and ferry them to shore. The estimated construction cost was $30,000. As the church, Kawaiaha'o was the scene of many celebrated events, inaugurations, funerals, weddings, thanksgiving ceremonies associated with the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Today, the congregation is a member of the United Church of Christ and continues to perpetuate Hawaiian culture and the ministry of Jesus Christ in the world.