These three houses, dating from the early days of the missionaries, are protected as a National Historic Landmark and are open to the public as a museum. They are the oldest Western-style buildings still standing. Properties include the Mission House (1821), the Printing Houses (1841), and the Chamberlain House (1831), built by Levi Chamberlain for himself and his family of eight when they came to Honolulu from Vermont in 1823. books in the Hawaiian language, used by missionaries as a written language, were first printed.
On the one hand, missionaries contributed to Hawaiian culture by creating an alphabet essential to the preservation of the Hawaiian language, previously only a spoken language. On the other hand, they helped erase Hawaiian culture by spreading Christianity. Kamehameha II, who had participated in the destruction of the traditional kapus in 1819, viewed the missionaries with suspicion. He limited their stay to a year and assigned them a barren place to live somewhere between Waikiki and present-day downtown Honolulu. They could build only a few grass huts there, which gave them little shelter, and the dry earth made large-scale agriculture impossible.
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Shortly before Christmas, 1820 parts of a wooden house arrived aboard a freighter from Boston. However, the missionaries could not rectify it because they needed the king’s permission to stay where they were for more than a year. Just before the end of the year, the king came to make an inspection. He visited a class of the school in one of the grass huts, ate a sumptuous meal, was convinced by the ideas of the missionaries and granted them permission to stay longer.
As a result, work immediately began on the first house, which can now be visited. Few of the original furnishings survive, although two large desks from the 1830s were sent from Boston to Honolulu, and a rocking chair designed for the king and his queen by the leader of the missionaries, Father Hiram Bingham, still exists. Two mid-nineteenth century New England hurricanes are also on display.
The printing press, now located in the printing house, is not the original. However, it is a true copy of the original press on which the first Hawaiian words were printed. A second printing press from that era is located in Lahaina, Maui, on the Lahainaluna Seminary campus.