(Photo copyright The Wall Street Journal 2011)
By Julia Flynn Siler
Abigail Kawananakoa has been on a decades-long treasure hunt-a bid to recover silverware, lamps, rare furniture and other assorted objects from her family's former home.
Make that "palace."
A dedicated team of preservationists are searching the world to reclaim the lost treasures of the Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace on American soil. This 84-year-old is a princess-a descendant of the royal family that ruled the former nation of Hawaii more than a century ago, presiding from graceful Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu.
But much of the 19th-century palace's custom-made furniture, oil paintings and other treasures disappeared after January 1893, when a small band of businessmen overthrew the monarchy.
"We'd love the king's bed back," says Princess Abigail, the great grand-niece of Queen Kapiolani, who was married to the last King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua. His gilt-and-ebonized bed, made by the Boston-based A.H. Davenport Co., is one major item still missing. "We've had so many leads, and they've all been dead ends," the princess says.
Built in 1882, Iolani Palace was richly furnished when it was the home of Hawaii's last two monarchs. But by 1969, the creaky, termite-infested Italianate palace stood vacant. The Junior League of Honolulu helped found a nonprofit group called The Friends of Iolani Palace, which ended up running the palace as a museum. They tapped Princess Abigail's mother, Liliuokalani Kawananakoa Morris, to be the Friends' first president.
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