Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Escape to Polynesia Seminar - San Diego, 2012

Aloha, Friends.

Sorry about the lack of posts over the last month and a half, but I have just recently completed three years of research for my newest seminar. Last month I literally traveled coast to coast researching University Archive Collections in San Diego and Central Florida pulling together my latest presentation.

(For the hardcore tikiphiles out there, they should know the tiki connection to Shamu and Punchy)

There have been several previous seminars about the history of Polynesian Pop in San Diego, but this one will be all new material, never before seen plans, blueprints, stories and interviews. And for theme park fans, I will also be showcasing the history and development of Seaworld and the heavy Polynesian influence that park exhibited in its early years.

I'm still working on a schedule and venue for this event, so stay tuned. I expect to present it later this year in the late fall or winter 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tahiti Apartments - Follow-Up

Last month I posted an entry on the blog about the Tahiti Apartments in Torrance, California. When the complex opened in 1961, the advertising indicated that the interior of the complex was also decorated in a South Seas theme.

Last weekend, my friend Boris, a local Southern California tikiphile, visited the Tahiti apartments to investigate the current state of the complex.

The Tahiti Apartments (March 2012).

The two 10' entrance tikis have long since rotted away.

The Tahiti Apartments courtyard (March 2012)

No trace of the tikis or Samoan canoe that once existed here. The pool has even been filled in and planted over.

Thanks for your urban archelogy expedition Boris!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Crow's Nest - Pt. Loma, California

I'm on the road again, and this week I found myself in San Diego, my favorite tiki town. I had the chance to stop in last night and enjoy a few Mr. Bali Hai Mai Tais at the Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island. This was my first visit back to the Bali Hai after the remodel a few years back, and I was pleasantly surprised with the nice job they did updating the place.

On occassion, I get emails from readers asking me if I have a favorite building, or if I can point out a prime example of Polynesian Pop Architecture. My immediate answer is yes, I have a favorite and I got to visit her again today, lovely as ever.

The Crow's Nest Yacht & Ship Brokerage

The Crow's Nest exhibits several different classic elements of tiki architecture. I love this building, its got a great color scheme, it has a shake shingle roof, it has tropical landscaping, its small and intimate, its located on the ocean and finally it is surrounded by other Polynesian Pop Architecture found all across Shelter Island.

The Crow's Nest: 2515 Shelter Island Drive, Point Loma, California

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Polynesia Apartments - Canoga Park, California

The Polynesia aprtments were originally documented in 2006 over at Tiki Central. I recently found some new information to share that shows how the place has changed over the last 50 years.

The Polynesia was built in 1962 by Mr. Max Resnick, a Southern California apartment builder. The newly constructed complex was featured in this May 1962 advertisement for General Electric Air Conditioners.

The Polynesia is the newest of Max H. Resnick's luxury apartments. Tenants stay tradewind-cool all through Southern California's long, hot summers, thanks to General Electric Built-In Air Conditioners.

The Polynesia - May 1962

Unlike most tiki apartment complexes, The Polynesia did not have an A-frame at the entrance. Instead, it had this interesting arrangement of large beams decorated with exotic patterns to provide an entrance canopy.

The Polynesia still stands and the mural on the front of the building remains.

Photo: Sven Kristen, 2007

However, the decorated canopy beams have long since been removed.

Photo: Google StreetView 2012

Back in 2006, they were still lighting the mural at night.

Photo: Chongolio (Tiki Central)

The Polynesia is located at 7314 Variel Avenue in Canoga Park, California.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tahiti Apartments - Torrance, California

The Tahiti Apartments opened their doors for business on Saturday, October 14, 1961 in the SouthBay suburb of Torrance. Did you note the description of the interior courtyard?...Sounds like a great place to live.

The two story, $190,000 Tahiti Apartments were built by Gilbert Sellan in 1961 and included 18 units. Each unit was rented as a completely furnished apartment with “color-coordinated interiors and striking Polynesian modern d├ęcor.”

Wow, these apartments were pre-decorated with tikis inside and out!

Gilbert Sellan (left), prominent Southern California builder, is presented with a Gold Medallion plaque, as evidence that his new ‘Tahiti’ apartment building meets high standards of the electric industry.

Check out those two large tikis in the background. Directly behind Mr. Sellan (striped sport coat) stands a 10 foot tiki. Over the left shoulder of the representative of Southern California Edison you can see another 10 foot tiki with a ‘rootball’ headdress. The eyes of the tiki are just above his shoulder and the nose, mouth and base continue down his back and legs. Those are fantastic tikis and made quite and entrance to the ‘Tahiti’!

Torrance and the SouthBay area of Los Angeles was a hotbed of tiki activity in the 1960s. If you lived at the Tahiti, you could have stopped in at the Tiki Kai in Lawndale for dinner (just 3 miles north) and then visited the Polynesian in Torrance for after dinner cocktails (just 2.5 miles south). Both the Tiki Kai and the Polynesian featured live nightly entertainment, ….ahh, that would have been the life of a swinging bachelor!

Here is a Google StreetView picture of the Tahiti Apartments taken June 2011.

The ‘Tahiti’ name has long since been removed from the building, but the font style of the address looks like it may provide a clue as to what it may have looked like.

The two 10-foot entrance tikis are long gone from this 50 year old complex, but I wonder if there is still anything thing hiding inside of that courtyard, there used to be??? Any Southern California tikiphiles up for some urban archeology, drop me a photograph if you find anything.

Good Hunting!

Tahiti Apartments (1961) – 21109 Reynolds Drive, Torrance, California.

Update (March 2012) - Link to a follow-up post with new pictures.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hana Kiki Garden Apartments - Part 2

The location of the mystery tikis has been verified. Chris Jepsen went back to visit the Hana Kiki Garden Apartments and they are in fact the correct location of the original 1961 photograph. You can read about his recent visit and see his before and after photos over on his blog.

Thanks Chris!

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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Polynesian Terrace Bird Cafe - Disneyland, California

When Disneyland first opened in 1955, the Adventureland portion of the park included the Adventureland Pavilion restaurant. You can see photos of the original pavilion in this earlier post.

In in 1963, with the introduction of audio animatronics developed at WED Enterprises, the Adventureland Pavilion was updated. Bill Martin (Disney Legend) who started his career with Disney in 1953 as an Art Director for Fantasyland, eventually became the Art Director for all of Disneyland. Bill's role as art director for this project involved taking the construction drawings and bringing them to life in Disneyland.

Note the name of the project at the time "Polynesian Terrace Bird Cafe & Tiki Garden"

It wasn't long before the concept of the Bird Cafe was abandoned and the project was transformed into "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room".

Architectural drawing to transform the Adventureland Pavilion into the Tiki Room and adjacent Tahitian Terrace Restaurant. North Elevation as seen from the Tiki Garden.

West Elevation. Note the original exit stairs were going to lead off to the south directly into the adjacent restaurant. The plan was revised and the stairs now exit directly off the center of the patio in the middle of the drawing.

In the West Elevation drawing you can clearly see the basement structure and the stairs that lead down from the Tiki Garden. You can also make out the attic where the Bird Mobile hangs.

A conceptual rendering for new signage for the attraction with the introduction of Dole as the new sponsor.

The Tiki Room signage and Uti, the Polynesian Godess of Fishing

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hawaiian Brutalism

As a reader of this blog and fan of all things tiki, I expect most of you also enjoy other Mid Century architectural styles. Today we look at Brutalism, which surprisingly, can be found in the world of Polynesian Pop culture.

The term Brutalism was coined in 1956 from the French phrase beton brut, which means 'raw concrete'. The Brutalist sytle is about concrete surfaces and repetitve angular shapes, a complete opposite of what we expect in Tiki Architecture with organic materials like thatch, bamboo, tapa cloth and lava rock.

Here are a few classic examples of Modern Brutalism architecture for reference.

The Geisel Library, University of California San Diego (1969)

Habitat '67, Montreal Expo (Canada, 1967)

Druzhba Holiday Center Hall, Yalta, Ukraine (1984). How is it that this beautiful structure located on the north shore of the Black Sea has never been featured in a James Bond movie as the villians H.Q.???

Interestingly, Brutalism had an enormus impact in Hawaii and became a dominant theme in the late 1960s, particularily for the new larger resorts on the islands of Maui and the Big Island that were just starting development.

Photo credit: Ian Lind

The Keauhou Kona Resort District on the Big Island was a barren volcanic shore in the early 1960s, but all of that was about to change over the next decade as new resorts were built in the Brutalist style, including:

The Kona Hilton (1968, currently the Royal Kona Resort):

The Kona Hilton was designed by Pete Wimberley and his firm in the late 1960s. From previous posts here on Tiki Architecture, we know that Pete was the primary force for developing the tiki style found in mid century Hawaii.

Photo Credit: Ian Lind

Photo Credit: Ian Lind

These decorative columns were cast-in-place with colored concrete and sport a Polynesian design. They are the center piece of the resort's main restaurant and the dinning room was constructed around them.

Photo Credit: Ian Lind

In the forground of this photo, you can see the concrete forms that were used to cast the decorative columns.

The columns can still be found in the Hotel's restaurant today, which is currently occupied by Don the Beachcomber.

The Kona Surf Resort (1971):

The Kona Surf Resort was designed by the architectural firm of Lemmon, Freeth, Haines, Jones & Farrell. Earlier in his carrer, Cy Lemmon worked with C.W. Dickey (father of the Hawaiian style roof) in Honolulu after WWII. Then in 1951 he left and started his own firm, eventually becoming one of the largest architectural firms in Hawaii.

This image was used in full page magazine ads in 1972 stating "The Kona Surf: Hawaii's Most Beautiful Resort"

Second floor open air atrium.

The walls of the resort's lobby included a sculpted concrete mural by artist Tom Van Sant, entitled 'Hawaiian Visions'

7 wall 'Hawaiian Visions' concrete sculpture (1971, Kona Surf)

Tom Van Sant is well known for his commercial concrete sculptures, including this mural in California.

'Dolphin Wall' (2001, Newport Beach, California)

In 2000 the Kona Surf resort closed their doors for business. However, new owners purchased the building and reopened in 2005 as the Sheraton Keauhou Bay.