Keʻelikōlani Middle School honored on 196th birthday of Hawaiian princess

Keʻelikōlani Middle School honored on 196th birthday of Hawaiian princess

Students, staff and community members commemorated the renaming of the former Central Middle School back to its original name honoring Princess Ruth Keanolani Kanāhoahoa Keʻelikōlani in a ceremony today celebrating her 196th birthday.

“The restoration of the schoolʻs name celebrates Princess Keʻelikōlaniʻs devotion to the education of children in Hawaiʻi and connects our students today directly to her generosity and foresight,” Principal Joseph Passantino said in a release. “Bringing back the name Keʻelikōlani allows us to respect the Hawaiian culture, respect our aliʻi, and empower our students by instilling in them the characteristics that she embodied.”

A beautiful new campus mural honoring Princess Keʻelikōlani was also dedicated as part of the celebration. It displays the grand palace of Keōua Hale in Honolulu, her traditional thatch-style home on the grounds of Huliheʻe Palace in Kailua-Kona, and Mauna Loa, where she intervened to help protect the city of Hilo from a lava flow in 1880. Official school signage was also unveiled and will be installed in the coming weeks.

Princess Keʻelikōlani, a high-ranking aliʻi and a descendant of royal bloodlines on both sides of her family, played a major role in expanding access to education in Hawaiʻi. Upon her death in 1883, Princess Ke‘elikōlani’s property, including Keōua Hale, was bequeathed to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

After Pauahi’s death in 1885, the Board of Education purchased the Keōua Hale property in 1895 and turned it into Honolulu High School . 

When Honolulu High vacated the property in 1907, it became Central Grammar School. Efforts were soon made to rename the campus Ke‘elikōlani School, but  due to the difficulty some had in pronouncing the Hawaiian name, it reverted back to Central Grammar until 1928.

That year, the school was renamed Central Junior High School, followed by Central Intermediate School in 1932 and Central Middle School in 1997. Buildings on campus were placed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places in 1994.

To this day, a building on campus still displays the original name of Ke‘elikōlani School.

Photo credit: Hawaii State Department of Education