Our Church History
Unitarians in Hawai'i first came together in a lay led fellowship founded by women Rosemary Matson and Ruth Iams in 1952. The fellowship grew into a congregation that became a church with a minister in 1957. Some of the founders continue their active participation in the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu today.
In 1962, the Church purchased and modified a gracious and spacious mansion in Nu'uanu Valley. The mansion, with its large breezy rooms, classic architecture, and prominent location on the Pali Highway, was originally built in 1910 by one of the four prominent missionary descendent families. Today this edifice serves as an ideal location for our island-wide congregation.
This same building accomodates Sunday morning services, adult and children's religious education, offices, meeting rooms, and the Gallery on the Pali. Other religious, music, theatrical groups, and community organizations also convene here.
Our Church Building
From about 1910 until just after World War II, a handful of firms known as The Big Five (Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, Alexander & Baldwin, Theo H. Davies, and the American Factors (now Amfac) virtually owned Hawaii's economy and key political figures. ... Most of the chief executives of these kama 'aina (long time resident) cartels were descended either from early missionaries or from annexationist-businessmen who were "active" during Hawaii's not-so-gay 1890's. By capitalizing on vast land and political bases required by their ancestors, these ruling families were so good at commercial exploitation that by 1931 they controlled 95% fo the sugar industry. With the coming of World War II ... this era ended. -- Hawai'i Insight, Guide 1984
The mansion that houses our church was built by Richard A Cooke and his wife Dagmar Sorenson in 1910 and enlarged thereafter to house them and their five children. After World War II the house was sold. In 1954, the Bishop Estate, the new owner, converted it to a girls dormitory for 45 students of the Kamehameha Schools. The trustees named the house the "C.M. Cooke House," honoring Richard's father who was a pioneer Bishop Estate trustee. (Charles M. Cooke was president of C. Brewer & Co. one of the leading sugar companies in Hawai'i at the turn of the century. He also served as one of the first trustees of the Bishop Estate. His father and mother, Amos Star Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke, arrived in Honolulu in 1837 as missionary teachers. With S.N. Castle, Amos Cooke founded Castle & Cooke, later, the agent for the Matson Navigation Company.)