Hawaii’s Capitol building doesn’t have the grand golden domes of capitols in other U.S. states, instead its exterior is blocky and reminiscent of the 1960s postmodern era in which it was built. But, like other capitols, its features are rife with symbolism. Inside, the central courtyard opens to the sky via narrowing layers set to mimic the interior of the volcano; the two Legislative chambers also feature unique sloped walls to achieve a similar effect. The eight supporting pillars on the front and back of the building narrow toward the top to evoke the trunks of royal palm trees, there is one for each of the main Hawaiian Islands. A raised moat reflecting pool surrounds the building and is said to symbolize the Pacific surrounding the Islands. Visitors can wander through the courtyard and grounds, which has an appropriately blocky statue of Father Damien—a sainted priest who treated Hansen’s disease patients on a remote Molokai peninsula in the late 1800s before succumbing to the disease himself—an exact duplicate represents the state in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
The Hawaii Capitol Building is located at 415 S. Beretania Street in downtown Honolulu. Public tours are available by appointment on weekdays only. The building is open between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and a self-guided tour brochure is available from the fourth floor; follow the signs.