Amid the dust and grime of a California foundry sits the likeness of King Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli.

An unlikely place to find Hawai’i’s longest reigning monarch, but there, he is of king-sized proportion.

As part of the City’s plans to improve Thomas Square, Hawai’i’s oldest park, an artist was commissioned to sculpt a statue of Kamehameha III to commemorate the monarch’s historical connection to the area.

“It started with a call and we received over 80 applicants from all over the country,” Tory Laitila, the Registrar of Honolulu Mayor’s Office of Culture and Arts said.  

Thomas Jay Warren, a sculptor from Oregon, was chosen to craft the $250,000 bronze statue.

“The total span of the project is going to 11 months, from the time I started enlarging, from the decision that was created by the commission, 11 months from that enlargement to 12 feet, to finishing the casting, to delivering and installing it in Honolulu,” Warren said.

Island News recently got a glimpse of the statue when Laitila traveled to Berkeley to check on the progress of the project.

Kauikeaouli will stand at 12-feet tall but laid in nearly two dozen newly cast pieces across the foundry that day. The characters - K III - can be seen etched onto his collar alongside a kalo. The monarch’s hair - short, wavy, and slightly side-swept.

A sole flag pole donning only the hae Hawai’i, or Hawaiian flag, will accompany Kauikeaouli upon a pedestal near the center of Thomas Square when the statue is installed.

The statue will be shipped to Honolulu in July ahead of La Ho’iho’i Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day.

“Restoration Day this year is the 175th anniversary of the event so there’ll be a very large commemoration event at the park,” Laitila said. “There are many people looking forward to actual restoration day this year as well as the dedication of the sculpture.”

La Ho’iho’i Ea began in 1843 under Kamehameha III after rogue agents of the British Crown seized control of the government by order of British Lord George Paulette. During this time, all Hawaiian flags were lowered and burned. Months later, Queen Victoria sent Admiral Richard Thomas to Hawai’i to remove Paulette and reinstate the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Following the reinstatement of the Kingdom, a flag ceremony was held in Thomas Square where the Union Jack was lowered and the Hawaiian flag raised. This ceremony is where Kamehameha III spoke the popular proclamation, “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono,” loosely translated as “the sovereignty of Hawai’i is restored by righteousness.”

The park’s surrounding streets also acknowledge the Kingdom’s history with Britain. Beretania Street, on the mauka-side of the park, means Britain in the Hawaiian language and Victoria Street, on the Diamond Head side, pays tribute to Queen Victoria.

And though he’s been sculpting for over three decades, Warren is still moved by the opportunity to create memorials featuring persons of cultural significance. Those feelings resonated in the words he spoke of Kauikeaouli.

“He managed to get the Kingdom of Hawai’i back from the British without firing a single shot and that to me is an amazing piece of diplomacy,” Warren said.  “I research my subjects and the history, I read about him and we could use more people in public service like he was for his people.”

Diamond Badajos contributed to this report.