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Kona Kai Apartments, Auburn Washington

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In Auburn Washington, a town about 24 miles south of Seattle.

The Kona Kai complex is plain, it's the 8 or so large Tikis decorating the property that makes one hit the brakes when driving by. The Tikis are pole type, the images carved into the polls and not fully figural. I'd guess they're carved from cedar logs. The style of the carving is somewhat cartoonish. Most the Tikis range in height from 4 to 10 feet, and vary in thickness. The king of these Tikis is a big open mouthed fellow that is about 2 stories tall. The log he's carved from was inverted so the wide base makes the top of his head, similar to the palm tree Tikis that have roots for "hair". All the Tikis are in great shape with surprisingly little sign of rot.

Hoping to get some history I stopped in at the manager's office. I explained my interest in the architecture. He told me th Kona Kai was built in the early 60's, he had no idea who carved the Tikis. Then he added, "There's a cabana room that has some stuff in it, too." Would I be able to look in a window? "My wife and grand daughter are over there now baking Christmas cookies, I'll show you."

The Cabana Room is a building about the size of a small house. It has a central A-frame room with a 2 story peak and two large rooms off each side of the A-frame. It once sat at the edge of a figure 8 shaped pool which was filled in some time ago and planted (the pool's stone border and surrounding patio remain, as does a pile of fiberglass lounge furniture).

Inside the A-frame ceiling is completely lined in reed and trimmed with timber bamboo. The walls are paneled.

A customized outrigger canoe hangs from the peak of the ceiling as do several strings of small glass and cork floats in fishnet.

The room to the south of the A-frame is plain, paneling with a couple generic primitive art pieces on the walls. The room to the north has a large fireplace made of basalt taking up most of the north wall. The walls are alternating panels of woven mat and tapas cloth trimmed in bamboo. On every other panel hang New Guinean style masks, starfish, etc. There's bent cane sectional furniture with original flowered upholstery all over the complex.

The whole Cabana Room is in excellent shape, nothing torn down, painted over, or remodeled. The reason for the pristine quality is that it's never used. The current managers have ran the Kona Kai for 12 years and when they moved in they said the Cabana Room hadn't been used in 10 years. They cleaned it up but soon found that the residents that wanted to use it didn't want to clean up after themselves. So they keep it closed and mostly use it for a once a year cookie and candy making marathon (15 family members and a mountain of ingredients). They've never even had a Hawaiian themed party in it.

From what I've seen in my searches for Tiki the Kona Kai Apartments is one of the 3 best preserved Polynesian style places in the Pacific Northwest (the two main ones being the Alibi and the Jasmine Tree in Portland, Oregon).

[ Edited by: woofmutt 2012-06-18 12:23 ]

woofmutt, it's great to see you again! Do you have an address for this place? It sounds like you happened to catch them at an opportune time; did you get the feeling they'd be willing to open up the cabana room for people who want to see it?

Great find WoofMutt! Would love to see pictures of it.

Good to hear you are still combing the North West, Woofmutt. Can't wait to see the photo's - that sounds like quite a major find!

Trader Woody

Nice description of the place, Woofmut! That Cabana Room sounds like it's been sealed like a time-capsule and is probably a wonderfully-preserved snapshot of the era. I'd love to see that outrigger canoe with the words "Kona Kai" carved in it. Good work!



the entrance tiki

the front of the cabana

tall and short tiki's on the other side of the cabana

glass floats hanging from the ceiling

floats from another angle and whats that I see?

the kona kai outrigger!

the cabana is in a square courtyard formed by four two story apt. buildings (the complex is more than a bit down at the heels)
the other side of the complex had one story units and outside of them was this guy.

not much to note about the architecture though the one stories do have upswept rooflines.

some of the tiki's are showing some signs of wear or rot, and the whole complex needs work. It was last sold about 2005-6 and is for sale again.
I also thought I saw (but may be wrong) something about bankruptcy (it appears that they can't even afford to mow the grass).
The managers don't live at the complex and aren't there on the weekends so I couldn't ask to see inside the cabana, I'll try to get there on a weekday to get inside. Though I was looked at suspiciously by the residents everyone I talked to were friendly enough.
share aloha, tikicoma

Great job, Tikicoma, I just sent you a p.m. I had no idea this thread existed here on TC, glad you unearthed it!

Turns out O.A. also equipped this place, like the Polynesia Apts mentioned here:

This stuff must have mostly been in the rec room...

Wonder if Haner did those exterior Tikis also, they look a little less carefully carved.

Eventually I will do whatever I said I would do and here's proof: I finally added the pictures I took at the Kona Kai to my original post not quite ten years after the post was made.

Lurking dealers are now free to seek out the Kona Kai and plunder it. (If it hasn't been bulldozed or turned into a Russian retirement center.)

(Ideally this thread would be in Locating Tiki but that forum didn't exist back when this thread was originally started.)

Beautiful pics, woofmuther! Some of the PNG/ O.A. carvings are quite unique. Of course it is absolutely taboo to mess with existing Tiki sites and to destroy their untouched state. Tiki archeology is about documenting and promoting the culture, not greedily grabbing artifacts with a "must-have" collectors mentality.


sigh... :( :( :(

It's all gone... :(

The other day I googled kon kai auburn and the first thing that came up was Yelp-closed. I got on google maps street view drove it around the corner from the address to where the lone street side tiki remained and saw nothing. We went there today and found everything gone. :( The cabana is now the office with white sheetrock walls. It looks like they keep regular hours so I'll go there next week to ask what happened to everything. It appears it was absorbed by a neighboring apt complex, it's way better maintained. Woof, google streets makes it look like was gone by May 2012, two months before you reposted your photos. :(

aloha, tikicoma

[ Edited by: tikicoma 2014-04-26 20:54 ]

Sigh. The way of all things…the white wall syndrome :(

It will be but a small comfort that the Oceanic Arts bill for the Kona Kai apts will be displayed at a Paris museum exhibition this summer and immortalized in its catalog.

On 2014-04-28 09:03, bigbrotiki wrote:
Sigh. The way of all things…the white wall syndrome :(


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