Spalding House was built as a residence in 1925 by Anna Rice Cooke, widow of Charles Montague Cooke. At the same time, the Honolulu Museum of Art was being built on the site of her former home on Beretania Street in Honolulu. The Makiki Heights, home was designed by Hart Wood and later enlarged by the firm of Bertram Goodhue and Associates. The Honolulu Museum of Art acquired the estate as a bequest from Cooke's daughter, Alice Spalding, in 1968 and operated it as an annex for the display of Japanese prints from 1970 to 1978. In the late 1970s, it was sold it to a subsidiary of The Honolulu Advertiser. In 1986, the Thurston Twigg-Smith family converted it to The Contemporary Museum. Following interior renovation, the museum, with its doors by artists Robert Graham and Tony Berlant, opened to the public in October 1988.
On May 2, 2011, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu ceased to exist as an independent entity. The Honolulu Museum of Art acquired Spalding House along with its collections of more than 3,000 works of art. The Makiki Heights building, which has about 5,000 square feet of gallery space, reassumed its former name, “Spalding House”. It currently displays rotating exhibitions of mostly contemporary art.
The Milton Cades Pavilion
David Hockney designed stage sets for three one-act French operas presented at the Metropolitan Opera in 1981. He reconstructed these stage sets for a 1983 exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Hockney Paints the Stage. The three-dimensional set for Maurice Ravel's opera, L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells), was acquired for the 1988 opening of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, and is permanently installed in the Milton Cades Pavilion on the grounds of Spalding House.
The surrounding gardens were originally landscaped between 1928 and 1941 as a Japanese stroll garden by Reverend K. H. Inagaki, a Christian minister of Japanese ancestry. In 1941, he traveled to Japan to visit relatives, and was never heard from again. From 1979-1980, the gardens were resuscitated by Honolulu landscape architect James C. Hubbard. During the 1990s, Kahaluʻu-based landscape architect Leland Miyano brought the gardens to their current state. The grounds display sculpture by Satoru Abe, Charles Arnoldi, John Buck, Deborah Butterfield, Jedd Garet, Jun Kaneko, George Rickey, Fred Roster, Randall Shiroma, Toshiko Takaezu, Tom Wesselmann, and Arnold Zimmerman.
- Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House, 2012, p. 2
- "History of the Spalding House". The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu web site. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House, 2012, p. 3
- Burlingame, Burl, “Art museums sign off on merger agreement”, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 3, 2011, p. B2
- Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House, 2012, p. 6