Shangri La’s Stone Camels

Visitors to Shangri La love to pose with the two smiling stone camels (41.145.1-2) on either side of the front door. Even Doris Duke is known to have taken a photo or two with these camels. Here she is in 1939, posing with Sam Kahanamoku.

Doris Duke and Sam Kahanamoku at the entrance to Shangri La, 1938–39. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Doris Duke and Sam Kahanamoku at the entrance to Shangri La, 1938–39. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Originally from 18th-century China, the two camels were purchased right here in Honolulu, from high-end furniture retailer S. & G. Gump Company. The Gump’s store was located on Kalākaua Avenue, where the Louis Vuitton store is currently located, and the camels (or replicas of the camels—we’re not quite sure) were displayed on either side of their door, too. In March 1939, when construction on Shangri La was wrapping up, Doris Duke purchased the camels and installed them in her entry courtyard, where they’ve been ever since.

The S. & G. Gump Company Store on Kalākaua Avenue. Hawai‘i State Archives.
The S. & G. Gump Company Store on Kalākaua Avenue. Hawai‘i State Archives.

Fun fact: Also purchased from Gump’s were the two stone horses at the entrance to the Honolulu Museum of Art.