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Five-0 Headquarters

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In 1968, 'Iolani Palace was the Hawaii State Capitol Building. And, so,

it became the headquarters of the state's premiere (albeit fictitious) 

police force. In 1969, the new state capitol building opened, but Five-0

stayed in the Palace. Of course, filming was another matter:  It took place

at the Hawaii Film Studio on 18th Street, just north of Diamond Head. 

(Photograph taken by Webmaster)

Fans of Hawaii Five-0 long have puzzled over where Five-0 Headquarters is supposed to have been located. For the first eight seasons, as well as in certain episodes in later seasons, it is said to have been located in 'Iolani Palace. In Season 9, the Five-0 team moved across the street to the Kekuanao'a Territorial Office Building, known for our purposes as the TOB.   


In "Nine Dragons," the first episode of Season 9, Danno is seen emerging from scaffolding before the palace, while Steve loads books into the trunk of his car. A sign before the TOB explains that it is the temporary office of Five-0. Early episodes of Season 9 actually were filmed in the northeast corner of the TOB. One hears the echo of the nearly empty office before Steve hangs drapes and lays rugs to absorb the noise. One can see and hear traffic as it passes along S. King Street and Punchbowl Street, right outside the office windows. And, then, something interesting happens. Exterior shots still show the TOB, but interior shots show Steve's office at the palace. And, then, exterior shots once more show the palace. Although we are not told as much, we can only assume that restoration of Five-0's offices has been completed and the Team has returned home. 


Of course, in real life, McGarrett's office was not within the palace. In the program's first year, when the palace was the state capitol building and was occupied by actual governmental offices, there was no room for Five-0 or anyone not already squeezed in there. Instead, McGarrett's office was located on one of several sound stages used through the program's twelve-year run. The first, called Mongoose Manor for its uninvited inhabitants, was located near Pearl City. The last, called Diamond Head Studios, was and is located on 18th Street, near Diamond Head Road. Now, that facility is known as the Hawaii Film Studio.


But we are not concerned with real life. We are concerned with the world as it existed in Hawaii Five-0, and, there, the great mystery begins. 'Tis a puzzlement, for as soon as one corner of the second floor of the palace seems appropriate, certain details change that make it no longer appropriate. Some fans have even suggested that McGarrett played musical offices, changing corners whenever the storyline required it. Indeed, that is how it appeared.


In most of the early episodes, the side wall of McGarrett's office faces the state capitol building. In reality, the view from the windows across the rear of the palace is blocked by a large banyan tree and its many descending air roots. Queen Kapi`olani, wife of King David Kalakaua, is thought to have planted the tree at some point between 1882, when the palace was completed, and 1891, when King David passed away. McGarrett would not have had a clear view of the state capitol from the palace. 


In other episodes -- for example, "The Bomber and Mrs. Moroney" (Season 3) -- Steve's office appears to overlook S. King Street and the Ali'iolani Hale, which stands directly across the street from the palace. In this case, Steve's office would have been in the southwest corner of the palace, completely out of view of the state capitol building. There, the bomber shot an HPD officer, causing him to fall over the railing and onto the front lawn of the palace. If the space directly in front of the palace was grassy in 1971, it is not now. Now, all we see around the palace are the macadam drive and parking areas.


In many scene openings, the southeast corner is shown to represent Steve's office. Specifically, the southeastern turret is shown. In fact, in the earliest seasons, as the camera pans, the temporary room extensions that hung over the eastern lanai before the palace was restored can be seen. In later seasons, we see the restored eastern side of the palace. 


Here, I should note that the turrets that extend to the edges of the lanais are represented as Steve's office, regardless of which corner is being shown. In actual fact, they are too small to be the room we see in interior shots. They measure, perhaps, twelve to sixteen feet square, allowing for the thickness of the stone walls. They have a single window on all four sides and are accessible from adjacent rooms by doorways set at angles. You can see this in the pilot episode, when Steve goes to the governor's office after discovering the cocoon in the SS Arcturus. That actually was the governor's office when it was located in the palace, and it was in the northwest corner room. Originally, that room was King Kalakakaua's bedroom. In contrast, the door to the turret is not seen in the sound-stage set of Steve's office. Similarly, if the turret is supposed to be Steve's office, the door to his office is not set at an angle from Danno's cubicle, where it would have to be if actually filmed in the palace.


Starting in Season 4, the window behind Steve's desk becomes a pair of French doors, leading out to a lanai. In the palace, the only French doors are on the front and back walls of the center hall. Elsewhere, jibe windows rise into the wall over the windows. If Steve's office were in a turret and he walked out to a lanai, it would have been through a single jibe window.


Speaking of turrets, no one knows what purpose the turrets were built to serve. As mentioned, they are too small to serve many purposes. 'Tis an architectural mystery, which seems destined never to be solved.


Turning to "'V' for Vashon," part 2 (Season 5), in which French doors open behind Steve's desk and face the yellow YWCA Building across Richards Street, his office could not have been in the turret. Rather, it would have been in the room directly behind the turret. That room was the music room in the Kingdom of Hawai'i and offices within the governor's suite in the Territory and State of Hawai'i before the new state capitol building opened. 


Discrepancy also exists about where the doorway to the Five-0 suite is located. In the opening scenes of the pilot episode, "Cocoon," McGarrett mounts the grand koa wood staircase and enters the second storey on the left as one looks at the staircase from the front of the building. Then, he walks diagonally across the landing to the front room on the right side of the palace and goes into the room that was Queen Lili'uokalani's bedroom. 


Invariably, after entering the suite, he turns to his right and walks past the detectives' cubicles and into his office. If he entered the door in question, there would not be enough room for him to traverse the length of the suite as he so often is seen doing. Rather, he would have to enter through the center doorway.


In "Rest in Peace, Somebody" (Season 4), he does enter the center doorway --  several times, in fact -- however, the doorway is on the opposite side of the center hall. He is entering King David Kalakaua's library. Walking past the cubicles, he enters his office, which is now in the northwest corner of the palace. 


There, McGarrett would be able to see the western end of the new state capitol, but through the window on the back wall of his office. Even then, the capitol would not be directly behind his office. The capitol is offset from the palace, meaning McGarrett would look straight back, across South Beretania Street, and to the governor's residence, Washington Place. McGarrett's side windows would overlook the 'Iolani Barracks. 


In the later seasons, the mystery intensifies. Now, McGarrett & Co. come and go through a doorway directly opposite the door to the top cop's office. In earlier seasons, that door led into a closet. In later seasons, that door leads into a hallway with access to an elevator. Of course, in the Palace, that doorway (and it does exist) leads into a bedroom, not a hallway.


Conclusion: The Five-0 offices existed solely on a sound stage. Although the carpenters did an outstanding job replicating the architectural details, such as door and window mouldings, they did not manage to place the offices within the actual Palace. They did,  however, manage to place backdrops showing the state capitol and the YWCA as they would have been seen -- just not from the offices in question. Ah! The miracles of television!

The Art in McGarrett's Office

The Great Tea Race of 1866

The Grea Tea Race of 1866 was one of several paintings done by English artist Montague Dawson to commemorate a 16,000-mile regatta among clipper ships, which was held between Hong Kong (then known as Foo Chow) and London. The goal was to deliver the first shipment of China tea of the season, and the prize was a notable £8 per pound of tea delivered.


Three ships emerged as the front runners, Ariel, Taeping, and Serica, arriving in London almost simultaneously after a ninety-nine-day voyage, although Dawson's painting depicts only Ariel and Taeping. Both were built by the Robert Steele Company of Scotland. Ariel, launched in 1865, was the larger ship, measuring 195 feet long to Taeping's 183 feet, 7 inches; it was launched two years earlier. Both were clipper ships, known for achieving high rates of speed with their four masts of large sails, which clipped the wind. Ariel moored at the East India Docks and quickly offloaded a chest of tea, while Taeping continued on to the London Docks, arriving twenty minutes later. Even so, the race was adjudged a tie. 


Montague Dawson was born in Chiswick, London, England, in 1895. The son of a noted yachtsman, he acquired his talent for painting from his grandfather, Henry Dawson, a noted landscape artist. Dawson grew up in Southampton, on the water, and merged his interests in art and sailing to become a maritime artist. He worked as an illustrator for the Royal Navy and was often published in The Sphere.

The painting is also seen on a side wall in McGarrett's office in the Territorial Office Building, behind Admiral Henderson's desk inM Station: Hawaii, and in several episodes of Magnum, PI. The painting (actually a print poster, as it turns out) now hangs in its original frame in the home of Honolulu columnist and author Charley Memminger, who rescued it just before it was thrown into the trash. It seems some rats left their calling cards, shall we say, on the picture. Even so, he's glad he has it. So are we. Mahalo nui, Charley! (See picture, below)


Citation: The Great Tea Race of 1866, Ariel & Taeping, signed Montague Dawson. (c) Frost & Reed, Ltd., 18 May 1965. GU38681 (Catalog of Copyright Entries, Library of Congress, January-June 1965)

See also:


Thanks to Eva Bahre, whose comments served as a suggestion for this article, and to Jeremy, who provided additional information. 


Early Hawaiian Warrior Prints 


The early Hawaiian warrior prints in Steve's office were made from drawings by noted English artist John Webber. Webber served as Capt James Cook's official artist on his third voyage to Hawai‘i, then known as the Sandwich Islands. One of the prints is known as A Man of the Sandwich Islands With His Helmet (see picture, below); however, the name of the other print is unknown. When Five-0 was headquartered in ‘Iolani Palace, the drawings flanked Montague Dawson's The Great Tea Race of 1866; however, when Five-0 moved to the Territorial Office Building, they were seen in various locations around Steve's office.

John Webber was born in London, England, in 1751. After receiving his education in Switzerland, he studied art in Paris. While on Capt Cook's voyage, he made numerous watercolor paintings of Hawaiian landscapes and drawings of the people on the islands of Kaua`i and Hawai`i. Webber died in 1793, in England.


Mahalo nui loa to Eva Bahre, who identified these prints.



Michael Mercator’s Antique Map

An antique map hangs on the side wall of McGarrett's office, over his model sailing ship. It is thought to show a 17th century impression of North and South America with Australia and New Zealand in the far left. Detail is not clear enough to make out the Hawaiian Islands. Indeed, if the map is as old as we think it is, they might not even be plotted on the map. After all, this was a century or more before Capt Cook discovered Hawai`i.


The map was drawn by Michael Mercator. Steve's Girl wrote this about it: 

Gerard Mercator (1512- 1594) worked more than 20 years on the maps for a big

atlas but died before he finished it. This map was drawn by his grandson,

Michael, in 1595.

Montague Dawson - The Great Tea Race of

"The Great Tea Race of 1866" appeared on McGarrett's office wall.

(Photograph taken by and used courtesy of Charley Memminger)

John Webber - A_Man_of_the_Sandwich_Isla

"A Young Man of the Sandwich Islands

with a Helmet" (circa 1779) 

(Public domain via Wikimedia Commons). 

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