Hawaiian king’s historic palace gets barriers, signs after vandals strike, officials say

Kaniakapūpū, the historic summer palace of Hawaiian King Kamehameha III, has long been off limits for visitors in light of its cultural significance. But that didn’t stop one or more vandals from defacing the historic landmark last month, state officials said Thursday.

A heart-shaped carving appeared on a wall at the historic O‘ahu ruins around Valentine’s Day, according to a news release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m disappointed,” Ryan Keala Ishima Peralta, a state forestry supervisor, said in a statement. “While the vandal’s intentions perhaps were in their mind innocent, they are defacing an irreplaceable feature of our host culture’s history.”

Just three years ago, an earlier set of carvings — in that instance, crosses — popped up on a different wall at the palace, state officials said. The summer palace is described as the second most significant native Hawaiian building on the island, after Iolani Palace.

King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama started using the palace to host visitors and parties in 1845 — including about 10,000 people who are believed to have shown up at the site for a luau celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847, state officials said. Hawaiian chiefs, foreign celebrities and commoners alike feasted at the palace, according to a plaque at the site.

The state said crews are installing low-impact barriers, such as logs and plants, around the ruins. Peralta said in a video released by the state that those sorts of barriers were intentionally selected instead of chain-link fences or barbed wire, which wouldn’t fit the setting. Signs are also being installed to explain the site’s cultural significance and deter would-be vandals.

“We know people come up here, even though it’s closed, so we want to arm them with information to help them appreciate the cultural significance of Kaniakapūpū,” Peralta said.

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The Hawaii Tourism Authority is helping to pay for the security upgrades.

“It’s hard to imagine what’s going through someone’s mind when they intentionally deface or destroy this important part of Hawai‘i’s legacy,” Peralta said.

One particularly tough problem faces Hawaiian officials hoping to stop tourists from harming the site: the rise of social media.

After the 2016 vandalism, officials reached out to travel blogs and tourism sites that were encouraging tourists to check out the ruins, asking them to scrub their pages of references to the culturally significant summer palace. Those efforts were often successful, but now officials are “again contacting social media sites asking them to remove references to Kaniakapūpū.”

The Kaniakapūpū hashtag on Instagram alone features more than 1,000 photos, with some apparently posted within the last week.

Peralta said that when it comes to conserving Kaniakapūpū, “social media is not necessarily our friend.”

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