Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mystery Tikis - Hana Kiki Apartments, Santa Ana, CA?

Back in January 2008, my friend and fellow tikiphile Chris Jepsen posted this mystery tiki photo to his his excellent blog on the history of Orange County, California.

Mystery Tiki Photo
photo credit: O.C. History Roundup, Jan. 22, 2008

Mystery Tiki Photo
photo credit: O.C. History Roundup, Jan. 22, 2008

Chris commented "The photo comes from the O.C. Archives and was shot by an employee of the O.C. Planning Dept. in Nov. 1961. Unfortunately, I don't know the location of this outstanding tiki-themed apartment complex. There were many one-story faux-Polynesian complexes in Southern California in those days, which makes it tricky to pinpoint. My first thought was The Islander Apartments, at the northern edge of Santa Ana -- but it's really not a perfect match. The odds are good that it's in O.C., but even that's not 100% certain....Interestingly, the tikis in the photo above each serve a purpose: The first holds a torch, which undoubtedly lit up with a gas-fed flame at night; and the second seems to hold a map or directory of the complex....Please post a comment if you recognize the tikis or the buildings, or if you have any other clues to share."

I was looking at these mystery photos again over the weekend and think I have discovered their location. At first glance, I thought I recognized the apartment complex, but needed to go back through my picture archive to see if I could verify the apartment complex.

I think the mystery photos come from the Hana Kiki Garden Apartments in Santa Ana, located just one block east of the Islander Apartments (Chris's first guess). Here are my photos from the Hana Kiki that I took back in 2004 during one of my tiki apartment hunting field trips. I had a crappy digital camera back then, so the photos aren't that good.

The pool lanai and A-frame roof so common to Southern California tiki apartments. The two story support column was carved with designs, but can't make it out in this photo.

Pool A-frame and carved column.

This is the photograph I used to help identify the Mystery Tiki Photo. There are a few things that I notice right away.

1. The shape of the exposed header beams is the same
2. The style and spacing of the downward extended roof beams are the same
3. The style and angle of the roof is the same
4. Both photos are from single story garden apartments with white concrete block walls.

The last piece of evidence is the comment Chris posted about the note on the back of the original photo. The photo was taken by the Orange County Planning Department in November 1961. The Hana Kiki Garden Apartments were constructed in 1960 and began renting apartments (adults only) in November 1960. Would the County Building Department have sent a field inspector back to a project one year later to verify compliance to building code for final acceptance? I don't know. However, the date of the opening of the Hana Kiki and the date of the photograph have too much in common to be a mere coincidence.

So, looking at all of this evidence, I have about 90% confidence in the location of this Mystery Tiki photo. However, for any of you Southern California tiki explorers, here is a challenge. If you stop by the Hana Kiki, the tikis themselves are long gone, but if you can verify the original mystery photo and get a better picture of the carved column at the pool, I would love to hear about it and see some pictures.

Good Hunting!

Hana Kiki Garden Apartments: 1147 West Memory Lane, Santa Ana , California

Update: The location was correct, read the rest of the story here.


  1. Nice work! You're almost certainly right. I've been to the Hana Kiki myself, but didn't make the connection. I'll have to get over there someday after work and see if I can match up the angle of the original photo.

    As for the November date, that IS most likely just random happenstance. The Planning Dept went out and shot MANY photos in the early 1960s depicting various kinds of development. I'm not sure we can attach any specific significance here.

  2. The garden apartment is so beautiful, and it's unique compared to the usual apartments. That photo is quite a mystery, but even so, this is a great place to stay in. Who wouldn't want to spend their day in an apartment that blends in with nature, with a pool to help one relax?

  3. I agree with you guys! I love this place! I love the view because there are trees and the greenly nature is evident. I love the garden, it makes me remember when I used to live in a penthouse apartment where I saw gardens from neighbors. Good Job guys! Hopefully I could visit Hana Kiki myself one day.

  4. what a beautiful place, I this place a lot of greenery I love these king of places

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