Two of the oldest wooden houses in Hawaii—the former site of the Sandwich Islands mission, the Island’s first western colony—remain not far from the skyrises of downtown Honolulu’s financial and government district. The Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives is comprised of the Frame House, the Chamberlain House and the Printing Office—built between 1821 and 1841, and restored and furnished as they would have been in the early 19th century. Each feature small exhibits and artifacts detailing early missionary’s way of life: a recreation of a medical dispensary, chamber pots in the rooms and quilts on the beds. Short-term exhibitions regularly make an appearance too and have included features on children’s toys, portraits and portrait-making, quilts and reading. The site also includes a library featuring over 12,000 printed works, handwritten missionary journals and a printing press used to create the first written Hawaiian language materials. A block away, you’ll find the old coral Kawaiaha’o mission church and the state’s first Christian cemetery, still in use today. The buildings of the Hawaiian Mission Houses site are listed on the National Register of Historic places, and also serve as a venue for regular public programming including workshops, teas and lectures.
The Mission Houses are located at 553 South King Street in downtown Honolulu. The houses are open Tuesday through Saturday only from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and closed on major holidays. Guided tours start on the hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and are the only way to gain access to the buildings’ interiors. It’s free to walk the grounds, but tours cost $10 for adults and $6 for children and college students with ID (there are discounts for military and Hawaii residents, also with ID). The excellent Mission Social Hall and Café, run by renowned Hawaii chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, is reason in and of itself to visit. It serves authentic and modern Hawaiian fare for lunch only—it’s open the same days as the Mission Houses and closes by 2 p.m.