Sunday, February 26, 2012
The Huki Lau - El Segundo, California
The year was 1961 and the race for tomorrow had begun. Billed as 'California's First Jet Age Hotel' the Thunderbird International Hotel was built at 525 Sepulveda Boulevard, in El Segundo, California, just a few blocks south of Los Angeles International Airport.
The Thinderbird was a sleek modern conference and hotel facility with a restaurant and attached Coffee Shop (seen in the lower right hand corner with the vertical glass windows).
The Polynesian Pop craze was at at its peak in the early 1960's in Southern California, and not wanting to be left out, the Thunderbird's Coffe Shop was renovated into The Huki Lau and reopened in August 1962, just one year after the restaurant originally opened.
Architectural Concept for The Huki Lau, drawn by Robert Mavis (1962)
The concept had a 2-story soaring A-frame over the entrance flanked with 3-story gas burning tiki torches. The folks standing in the middle of the A-frame give a sense of scale to the place. What a beautiful drawing.
Just a few short years after the Thunderbird opened for business, it was sold to a new ownership group and the facility was renamed the Hacienda Hotel.
The interior courtyard of the Thunderbird/Hacienda Hotel
Detail of the cool roadside signage along Sepulveda Boulevard
When the new ownership dropped the Thunderbird name in favor of the Hacienda, they also changed the name of the Polynesian restaurant and dropped Huki Lau for the more generic Tiki Hut.
Matchbook cover for the the newley renamed Tiki Hut at the Hacidena Hotel with the same dramatic A-frame and tiki torches
Real pictures of the Huki Lau/Tiki Hut are difficult to find, the best I have come across is this aerial photo looking south down Sepulveda Blvd.
You can make out the Hacienda Hotel with its tower and other buildings in the upper right corner of the photo. The hotel's signage is clearly visible out in front.
Just in front of the Hacienda sign, you can make out the A-frame and tiki torches (tipping towards Sepulveda) of the Huki Lau/Tiki Hut.
The Hacienda Hotel is still open for business, but has been remodeled and no traces remain of the Huki Lau/Tiki Hut.
Hacienda Hotel restaurant (2012) with A-frame removed