Destruction by Fire of the Residence of the Governess of Hawaii.
The tedium of this dull town, was relieved a little on last Wednesday night by a rousing fire. About one quarter to eight o’clock, the dwellers on Emma street, and in the immediate neighborhood, were suddenly aroused by the shouts and cries of kanakas, the screams of wahines, and the barking of dogs; and were first led to suppose that a big fight was on hand,—that perhaps the police had mutinied and the rifles were called out; but as each anxious individual peered into the street, they soon discovered by the column of flame that was leaping up into the dark sky, that a conflagration was on hand, and farther observation showed that it was taking place at the town mansion of Her Excellency, R. Keelikolani, the Governess of Hawaii.
The fire evidently had a good start, and as soon as discovered, was beyond the control of blankets or buckets of water; but not beyond the control of a good head of water from a fire plug, if spouting on it there and then. But the hydrant for public safety was not ready till the roaring devourer was licking the roof tree of Ruth. And when it was ready, the quenching stream served only to raise an impotent fizzle of stream. And oh! had the wind been up, and this fire had been in the close built part of the town, then we would have had a dance of destruction, that would have been equal to the cost of forty reservoirs.
But we must not complain, as the Ministers were out to see the fire burn, and lend a hand if needed. Emma street was lively with the jostling of Ministers and milkmen, diplomats and deacons, judges and jews, and editors and elderly ladies. Everybody turned out,—even some of the churches turned out. These were in the midst of the regular Wednesday evening service, when the uproar began. One pastor affected by the outside outcry, and the evident anxiety of his people, “sung it short,” and he and his flock, joined the throng in the street, to see the sight; but another one, while addressing his faithful, although he saw them speak out one by one, until he was left with only two to listen, yet he stood firm like the Roman sentinel at Pompeii, while the sparks of the conflagration were falling in his vestibule, and gave the two faithful witnesses the full benefit without halt or abbreviation of good orthodox sermon.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but as there had been on hand lately, a fierce litigation about this and other property, the circumstances afford occasion for a good deal of suspicion. Much that was curious and valuable in relation to ancient Hawaiian habits and costumes were unfortunately destroyed. There was some of the famed featherwork, worn by the old chiefs, many of the old feather insignia of office, the great kahilis of Hawaiian pageants, shell and hair ornaments, tappas and fine mats, and some royal bones—all of which were a considerable loss, excepting the bones.
The residence as a property, will not be much of a loss to the wealthy Governess of Hawaii. If the trades had been blowing fresh, several houses makai of this building, would have gone with it but as it was dead calm, and a light shower had fallen a few minutes before the fire broke out, it was easy to defend the roofs of neighboring houses.
On account of the absence of mail, we give this long report of an ordinary fire.
(Hoku o Hawaii, 1o/17/1873, p. 3)