Splendid. Distinguished. Impressive.

The year was 1912 and Hawaii’s newspapers were touting a new schoolhouse in Kaimuki as “the best constructed and most completely equipped public school building in the Territory.”

The original building’s cornerstone was laid by Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, on April 12, 1912 — a century ago this week. She was 73 at the time, and the school — at the corner of Waialae and Koko Head avenues — was named in her honor.

Although her kingdom had been overthrown nearly 20 years earlier, one newspaper report described Liliuokalani’s presence as “adding an atmosphere of royalty and courtliness” to the cornerstone-laying event. Still, her presence stirred mixed emotions for others.

“Even chance visitors at Kaimuki yesterday afternoon were deeply and some of them sadly impressed with the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the new $60,000 Kaimuki school, for Queen Liliuokalani it was who handled the silver trowel, and the appearance of the former Queen of Hawaii held something almost tragic for those who saw her,” the April 13, 1912 edition of the Evening Bulletin reported. “Queen Liliuokalani’s participation was without doubt the feature of the cornerstone-laying.”

Another newspaper account quotes Charles A. Cottrill, identified as collector of internal revenue, as saying: “I admire the splendid sentiment which prompted the naming of this building for Her Majesty, Ex-Queen Liliuokalani, who is so generally beloved and respected by all classes.”

Hawaiian-language newspaper Kuokoa reported that the school was built of cement, “like many of the great buildings being built these days.” It said the campus site cost $8,000 and another $60,000 to build. “When it is completed, this will be one of the most distinguished and beautiful schools … And when you look at the artist’s rendering, it is indeed splendid.”

The school opened in October 1912. Sanford B. Dole, former president of the Hawaiian Republic, gave remarks at an opening ceremony, where he expressed high hopes for the new school: “The new Liliuokalani schoolhouse promises well as the home of a great school — great in character, in accomplishment and in the spirit of the school body.”

Queen Lydia Liliuokalani Elementary School closed its doors for good in May 2011 — a year shy of what would have been its centennial birthday.

The building’s original cornerstone sits nestled in the corner of the school’s outdoor basketball court, surrounded by overgrown grass.

The school fell victim to economics last year when the state Department of Education recommended redistributing Liliuokalani’s 100 students into nearby schools.

The department said the closure would save the school system about $530,000 annually, because small schools like Liliuokalani cost more per student. The closure also was done partly in the name of efficiency, because the school was scheduled for costly maintenance projects in the next few years.

The Kaimuki campus is being re-purposed to house DOE personnel offices and a data center. Gov. Neil Abercrombie last month released $2.2 million in capital funds to renovate the school’s former cafeteria into a support facility and data center for the DOE.

The governor’s office said the work would allow the DOE to relocate 180 positions to the former school, including human resources staff currently housed in rented space in Iwilei, eliminating about $900,000 a year in lease costs.

A banner posted along the former school’s fence on Waialae announces a “100th anniversary kanikapila” celebration scheduled for Thursday evening to commemorate the queen’s dedication of the school.

View a slideshow of photos below.

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