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The Leilani... Brookfield, WI

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A client of mine did some digging and emailed me some info he found on The Leilani that once stood in Brookfield, WI. Thanks Peter!

I caught a glimpse as a child in the mid 70's in the back of Mom and Dad's car, and the memory of flaming tiki torches still sticks.

Amazing what happened to the hotel in 1961... lava tikis and a huge expansion. Such a shame I was born too late.

June 20, 1961

'Tiki' Taking Shape in Front of Motels; They're Made of Lava

By Tom Barber
Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD - A German sculptor carved South Sea island stone idols for a Polynesian restaurant in Brookfield today.

It all happened at The Leilani motel, 18615 W. Blue Mound Road, whose owners are in the midst of a $750,000 expansion program.

The motel is being doubled in size. But of more interest to most passers-by is a steep roofed supper club under condstruction just east of the motel.

Sculptor Gerhard E. Kroll, Milwaukee, is at work on the lawn in front of the restaurant fashioning large Hawaiian "tiki"– stone images of a religious significance in primitive South Pacific cultures.

The tiki will be used to decorate five dining rooms and two cocktail lounges in the restaurant. A large one will be placed outdoors.

Kroll has resided in Milwaukee for about two years. He studied art at the University of Wisconsin there.

The lightweight rock he is using actually is lava. Its porosity makes it easy to work. Saws, axes and knives replace the traditional hammer and chisel. Kroll expects to work a large pile of the stones into figures in about two weeks.

Along with Krolls sculpture the restaurant will be docorated with fireproof thatch ceilings, tabletops of monkey pod wood, monkey pod and coconut carvings, Hawaiian lighting fixtures and tropical plants.

Outside there will be live palm trees (to be stored indoors during the winter), fountains, and a sign illuminated with jets of fire.

Owner Paul Fecher said waitresses in the restaurant and the Malahini and Homaka cocktail lounges will wear sarongs. He hopes to hire a Hawaiian-born chef and a group of Tahitian dancers and singers to perform at the restaurant's opening about Sept. 1.

The menu will be "about 60 percent Polynesian food and 40 percent American," Fechner predicted. Dining rooms will seat 275. Banquet rooms below will be large enough for 500 to 600 persons. An automobile manufacturer will have a display downstairs.

The sharply gabled roof over the new restaurant carries out the style of the nearby motel. Both were designed by Milwaukeean Alan Wiederman. The motel addition is a two story wing attached to the south of the existing building.

Fechner has elaborate plans for future additions at "Leilani Village." East of the restaurant, on land formerly occupied by a competing motel which the Leilani bought, a heliport will be built.

Nine acres of land south of the motel have been purchased for a nine hole pich-and0put golf course. A pond on the tract will be enlarged. The purchase of 12 to 14 more acres, where an olympic sized pool and cabana club will be constructed.

The golf course and pool are on the agenda for next year. Sometime later, Fechner said, he hopes to build several town houses along the south edge of the golf course. They would be rented for longer periods of time than the motel units.

Then, the sad demise... I'm sure by the 1980's there were no traces of tiki

[ Edited by: Lake Surfer 2007-08-17 22:17 ]

More news to come... I've been doing some digging on my own. Have to see what developes.

[ Edited by: Lake Surfer 2007-08-17 22:22 ]


Thanks for the bulldozer shots tearing it down.
Hooray for progress.
What is it now, a Walgreens?

A lava carver.
Not too many of those around.
That your new medium, Lake?

Great research Lake. Makes my guts churn even looking at an old picture. I've been watching the old Upjohn company headquarters building being torn down here in Kalamazoo over the past couple of weeks. A huge classic mid-century modern building almost gone now. Thanks for the post.

I can't wait, I can't wait! Did you get ahold of the architect? That part of the A-frame that's visible looks so cool! You know I have a whole page of Leilani images in Tiki Modern: The rendering/postcard (showing the heliport), the matchbook and the menu cover. I once already related the story of how in the early 90s, I found the matchbook cover glued into the all matchbook wallpaper of the Neptune's Net mens room in Seal Beach, and I called the number, and some guy answered and after questioning said he would look for this stack of slides he had from when the Tikis were being carved!
...Never heard from him again, or followed up on it, Wisconsin was just too far away...Sigh

Or did you dig up the carver !!? Oh Boy! A German, how funny.


Yes, I deleted my post. How embarrassing!


A client of mine did some digging and emailed me some info he found on The Leilani that once stood in Brookfield, WI. Thanks Peter!

You're welcome Dave!

A good place to find photos of old Tiki establishments is your local historical society. I just took a shot in the dark and was able to locate these great articles.


My family and I used to go swimming at Harold's Leilani Motel on Sundays back in the late 1970's - early 80's. It would cost 2 dollars a person to swim in the warm water. The pool had a curving slide and a diving board. I can still hear the trickling of water running down that slide to make it slippery. We used to burn the backs of our legs as we sat in the super hot sauna. There were many tropical plants lining the walls of the pool (possibly plastic, I am not sure) to give you the appropriate feel. There was also some sort of sun deck, but it was always winter when we went. So I remember seeing the snow piled up on top of the lawn chairs on the deck while we played inside in the 86 degree water. Leilani was a wonderful escape from the harsh Wisconsin winters.

In the lobby there was some sort of early microwave device that cooked various foods that were sold in a revolving vending machine. I recall eating reheated burgers, possibly fries and hotdogs. As kids we were fascinated with the quick heating machine. There was also a vending machine in one of the hallways back by the bathrooms that swimmers were allowed to use. The big treat for me was the Milkshake Bar. Haven't seen one of those in a while!

I have such fond memories of Harold's Leilani. We moved far away from Brookfield, WI in 1987. I was shocked to find that it was gone on a visit a few years ago. Bluemound Rd wasn't even recognizable except for the occasional tavern I remember from childhood.

My sister stumbled on this site looking up whatever happened to Leilani. She was hoping to take her kids there on a visit to recreate an old memory. It looks like it's going to have to stay the wonderful childhood memory forever. Thanks for posting the newspaper clippings.

Very interesting that this topic is up at the top... I don't have to search for it now! :wink:

Good to hear your story, and that someone else remembers The Leilani.

Someone dropped this menu off just before Christmas at the Foundation Tiki Bar... I got to see it during the holiday party. I was back at Foundation today doing an install and took some pictures to post up here.

The front of the gatefold menu

With the front flap flipped over the inside

Front inside flap with the bowl drinks

Back inside flap

Inside spread

I doubt these ever happened? Or did they?

The plans seem a bit ambitious! :wink:

So... some more evidence uncovered on this Milwaukee area paradise... still need to find interior shots! Slowly but surely!

[ Edited by: Lake Surfer 2008-01-02 21:06 ]

Great find! The menu I use in Tiki Mod was a dinner menu, sans cocktail illustrations. I think this is the first time I have ever seen that weird PINK Wahine bowl actually used in a menu. I always marveled at it in Bob and Leroy's mug collection (the girls are sculpted really sexy) but never was sure it was used in the field, being so ....PINK!

And that Moorish Idol fish bowl I have only seen in the Aku Aku menu before. "Ticklish Tiki", that's a good one! And that announcement! Proves again that many Tiki temple builders were dreaming of a Don/Vic/Steve-like expansion.

I am dying to see more not only interior, but also exterior shots. With the Tikis being carved by that German local, they must have a never before seen look to them!


You mean this one?

I think Bob and LeRoy could fund their retirement with their collection.

Lookey here what I just came across in my files:

Check out these hot mommas! Love the way I can carve out things in my I-Photo. I think this bowl actually looks better in B&W, when you don't know they are pink!

I finally found one of those great oversized postcards from the Leilani Village, have been looking for years.

Here is the card with the view of the hotel, restaurant and helipad - yes I said helipad! I wonder if that was actually ever built?

Here is a blow-up view of the restaurant, with the amazing sign and lots of Tikis shown on the grounds. Great port cochere

Here is the motel side of the complex, check out the crossed tiki torches along the parking lot frontage.

I also have the matchbook with the Leilani sign - another top 5 of the all time tiki signs.

Here is the rest of the matchbook with a rendering of the restaurant.

This place was really cool.


We want to see PHOTOS of this place in its heyday!

On 2009-04-17 16:49, bigbrotiki wrote:
We want to see PHOTOS of this place in its heyday!

Well you the damned Tiki historian, so where are the photos?


On 2009-04-17 16:56, Dustycajun wrote:

On 2009-04-17 16:49, bigbrotiki wrote:
We want to see PHOTOS of this place in its heyday!

Well you the damned Tiki historian, so where are the photos?


Booohooo.... :cry:

On 2009-04-17 17:04, bigbrotiki wrote:

Booohooo.... :cry:


How about a menu cover to cheer you up?

(Courtesy of Mimi)

Or an ashtray??

Don't worry, somebody will find some pictures some day.


Sniff...the ashtray helps, thank you.

It's just that it is a sore spot of mine....

Back around '95 or '96, I found that very cool matchbook cover glued into the wallpaper in the men's room of Neptune's Net in Seal Beach (the men's room walls were all wallpapered with matchbooks, the ladies room had all buttons glued on the walls!)

It was like way down by the sink, but being a devoted urban archeologist I crouched down and wrote down the phone number of the place. One day I called the number, and it was still operational. I asked the guy on the other side if they still had any Tiki statues around, and he said no. But then he thought and said that he must have boxes of slides somewhere showing the Tikis being carved by the artist (didn't know he was German!) on the premises. Problem was, at the time there was no internet, no Tiki Central, and I just could not see a chance to make it to Wisconsin or sent someone on a mission. I just did not follow up on it. I couldn't do EVERYTHING! The slides were probably tossed with the tearing down of the place.

That, and that I never contacted George Nakashima are the great regrets of my Tiki life.

Oh, just noticed I am repeating myself from the previous page. Well, nobody reads that stuff anyway...

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-04-17 17:59 ]

The Leilani Village And the Cadillac Sands in Mi. Have allot of similarities. Here's Dusty's.

And here's my card of the Cadillac Sands (home of the Aku Aku)

Enough to make me curious

Enough to make me curious



Oooh... good call. Right down the the position of the cars in the rendering. Eerie, even.

Maybe this was an "off the rack" or standard motel design in the upper mid-west with the pool and restaurant in the rear with skylights above the pool.

On 2009-04-17 19:04, uncle trav wrote:
Maybe this was an "off the rack" or standard motel design in the upper mid-west with the pool and restaurant in the rear with skylights above the pool.

No Way Dude. Gotta be the same architectural firm. Need some investigation here (and some photos for Sven).


Yeah, now we're thinking! Very cool! Lake Surfer, what happened to your further research?

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-04-18 06:49 ]

I've got a brother in law who lives up that way, I'll make a call.

Lake Surfer - you started this, where are you?

Sven - I CAN'T believe that you, of all people, used to get phone numbers off the men's bathrooms walls!!!!


[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2009-04-17 19:31 ]

I live about three hours south of the Sand's and have been trying to get up that way to do some hunting for some information on the Aku Aku but haven't been able to make the trip happen yet. Anything on the Wisconsin end may help tie some things together also. I have made some requests for information to the resort about the Aku Aku but have had no reply. Imagine that.

Nice updates... and I understand your frustration, Sven.

Still following the trail... but those that owned the paradises of the past here are long gone and left little to go by.

I'll try to get out to Brookfield City Hall... I know Pete got the newspaper clippings from the library.

Great. Try to find out the architect, and if he's still alive, or has any descendants. Does city hall keep old building permits? Good digging, S.

Any new finds?

same architects...different building.

Here is another postcard I have of the Leilani Hotel. Slightly different view than the large card and shows a different sign out front - that looks strangely similar to the Cadillac Sands sign!


This is kinda interesting. Another postcard rendering for the Leilani Village. Notice the roadside signage with a stone base. And again the roadside signage for the Cadillac sands again with stone base. Am I splitting hairs here or is this postcard also evidence of an architectural connection? This is gettig good.

well we must have found the same image on the web at the same time .....Strange. I hit submit and there was your five minutes ahead.

"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-04-25 08:59 ]

sorry posted this twice

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-04-25 09:01 ]

meega posted on Sat, Apr 25, 2009 8:42 PM

This being my first post on Tiki Central, I hope everything formats OK!

Since the Leilani was a common site in Brookfield for decades, and I lived only a few miles away for most of its existance, I should have a bounty of artifacts.......but I don't - that's one of the reasons I'm drawn to TC.

For the record, I don't think there was ever a helipad built at the Leilani - a very 'Jetson's' concept, but never an economical or practical necessity at the time. Helicopters were not a common sight around here in the 60's, let alone dropping out of the skies for a bite to eat! There was plenty of space on the east side of the supper club to accomodate a helicopter in a pinch, but it seems to have been just an extended parking area.

I appreciate the Leilani in its absence more than I did before it disappeared. I was at the supper club twice......once for a wedding, and once for a Mother's Day brunch or something. This was in the mid-70s and It was a Reception/Banquet Hall area. There was a a lot of grass matting and a lot of carvings on the wall, but I really don't remember any large statues. I do remember a large tiki hut-like platform in the middle of the floor. I think it was where the wedding party ate, and where the brunch buffets were setup. The only thing I didn't really care for was that it lacked atmosphere. It was too well lit and the decore too uniformly arranged. Even if everything was authentic, it came across as sort of bland. There must have been a more intimate and interesting dining area, but I never saw it, nor the bar.

I also stayed at the motel once, but outside of the architecture, I can't remember anything too Polynesian, just standard motel decor. This was the early 80's and probably slipping into a state of decline.

These may not be what you were looking for, but should help a little with the puzzle.

The Leilani - 1963: the heydays - 3 years later It went bankrupt
The Motel & Supper Club were sold to separate buyers. I'm not sure if this is where the Gille's Leilani & Harold's Leilani came from?

The Leilani - 1970

The Leilani - 1980

The Leilani - 1990

The Leilani - 1995: The beginning of the end - destruction of the Supper Club
Shortly after the Motel would be razed too.

The Comptuter City That replaced The Leilani didn't survive more than a couple years, and now it's an Office Max(I think).

[ Edited by: meega 2009-04-25 20:52 ]

[ Edited by: meega 2009-04-25 20:54 ]

[ Edited by: meega 2009-04-26 15:37 ]

Fantastic work Meega and welcome to TC. Great to see a time line like this. What kind of map software is that? Looks something similar to what I saw used at city hall in my area. Thanks for posting.

meega posted on Sun, Apr 26, 2009 4:50 PM

Thanks! This is the sight I use to snoop around my geographical past.

The one problem is all of the watermarks the site overlays on the images.

Thanks. I checked out the site. It looks like a good resource. Five dollars is what they charge per image. I think these have the watermark removed.


Found a couple good articles describing this place. From Oct. 25, 1961:

"Leilani means gracious dining in luxurious surroundings. The new Polynesian Supper Club at 18615 W. Blue Mound Rd. must also mean that somewhere in the South Seas there is an island missing. Nearly everything from outrigger canoes and Tiki god figures to Polynesian cooks, has been imported by the owners of the newest restaurant sensation in the Milwaukee area. John and Paul Fechner, brothers, who built the club to go along with the successful Leilani Village Motel, said they have attempted to achieve the best possible quality of the cuisine and culture of the far away islands.

With the completion of the large Tahitian banquet room on the lower level, Paul Fechner said there will be room for more than 1000 people to dine and sit quietly in the plush settings, sipping such South Sea potions as Leilani Halfmoon. About 100 people are employed at the Leilani and the one who will have the most to do with making this the best restaurant in the midwest is 27 year old Joe Moy, chef in charge. Moy learned his difficult trade in restaurants in Hong Kong, Hawaii and San Francisco... ...the mahimahi fish are flown in each day fresh from Honolulu, where the natives catch them in the bay.

Some of the more popular rooms at the Leilani are the Malahini lounge, the Shell and Wahine rooms and the Garden terrace where on can dine in a jungle like setting. The numerous carved, heavy stone god heads that have caused so much comment at the Leilani are made from imported feather rock, which is the hardened foam of the lava that spews out on an erupting volcano. The wall of the stairway leading from the main floor to the lower level is composed completely of feather rock.

If it weren't for the one piece sarongs, the quiet, lovely dark haired waitresses could make one forget the Polynesian setting. They pad about the beautiful rooms and provide as much eye appeal as the Tiki gods did for the first museum collector who discovered them.

The Tahitian room, when completed, can be used for display purposes by area corporations and a specially designed wall allows cars to be driven into the banquet room for display."

Here is a great ad in the same issue :down:

Another March 29, 1962 article had some more good descriptions:

"Romantic music of the islands floods the five dining rooms, two cocktail lounges and huge private party rooms which seat more than 1000. Outrigger canoes hang from the ceiling. Turtle backs, massive sea shells, preserved starfish, black velvet paintings (for sale if you like them) adorn the lahala matted walls. There's enough bamboo in the restaurant to build a forest. Bars are made of monkey pod wood. Feather stone god heads peer at you from a hundred vantage points and rain cape thatched canopies provide unnecessary shelter but plenty of island atmosphere.

One of the dining rooms, the Garden Terrace, would have been better named the Jungle Room. Its authentic, all right. The only things lacking are a few live panthers and spear throwing natives. Its the perfect setting for a Witch Doctor cocktail, recommended only for the initiated. Then again the famed Leilani mystery drink might be more fitting, for with it you get the spine chilling crescendos of a Fu Manchu gong. After hearing it you're about due for the potion for four bracer which is served by a mystery sarong wrapped wahine.

And another ad from this issue :down:

Lastly, I also found some info on those other locations listed on the back of the one menu in a Jun 21, 1961 article. It says that the design concept of the Leilani Vilage has attracted people from all over the nation. The motel has had a steady 90% occupancy rate and last year had to turn away 8,000 room rentals. They catered a lot to large corporations and groups. It states that a leasing company is now handling contract work on other franchises for Leilani Village and that final transactions are now underway in Newark, NJ.

And here is a simple Oct. 1964 ad :down:


Some great research there, those articles and ads are great.

Here is the logo from the Leilani stationary.


Yes indeed MoEye, great research, I love that Leilani ad with the A-frame. AND the articles. Man what a fever Tiki style was in the early 60s, to inspire this classic, fully decked out Tiki temple in the middle of Wisconsin. Gerhard Kroll's stone carvings, the black velvets...WHERE did all this stuff go?

Although I can't quite follow the logic, this sentence could have been written by me:

"If it weren't for the one piece sarongs, the quiet, lovely dark haired waitresses could make one forget the Polynesian setting. They pad about the beautiful rooms and provide as much eye appeal as the Tiki gods did for the first museum collector who discovered them."


We need to find some interior shots. I think I have one of the large Tikis from there.


Thank you for sharing...sadly, a tragic bit of urban archaeology.

On 2009-10-03 07:22, boutiki wrote:
We need to find some interior shots. I think I have one of the large Tikis from there.

So Duke, what clues do you have that the Tiki is from the Leilani??

Here is an older matchbook when it was Gile's Leilani.


I tracked down Gerhard Kroll. He is still alive although in frail health. His wife seems to be in better health. I emailed them asking if they might have any info that they could share. Mrs. Kroll asked me why would I want to know about Gerhard, I tried to put her mind at ease and let her know that we were only interested in preserving history, but she never returned my email.
I suppose I should try again, as it was around the the holidays and prehaps she or whoever was helping her with the computer just forgot about my request.
Mr Kroll stayed in WI all his life and went on to teach art and is very well thought of by his former students.

Dang, that is fantastic! Aaaaah, what to do, what to do. Damned be the fact that the BOT is so expensive nowadays, that always seems like the simplest, self-explanatory thing, and it is a gift. Trying to explain our interests always ends up sounding like a bunch of weirdos to me.
Do you have the address? I could send them a TIKI MODERN, that has a page of LEILANI stuff in it...

I am please to say that the Wisconsin Brookfield Leilani TIKI is alive and well. With that said it is also in very good hands. The current owners (collectors of photography) and really not "TIKI" collectors by their own admission do understand historical preservation and the importance of such objects to individuals like you and me. They are not willing to sell this 300lb+ TIKI anytime soon. However, i am keeping my fingers crossed that someday they will call and consider my offer.
The owners shared with me that they bought this tiki from a local yard sale years back, from an elderly man whose house was also for sale. The man stated that the realtor told him the TIKI must be removed from the front of his home or else she would not help him sell the house in fear that the tiki would scare any potential buyers. So he decided to sell the TIKI.

Please enjoy the photos!


Menu cover for reference:

More Tiki Images:

[ Edited by: Bail Tekey 2010-06-28 16:55 ]

Bail Tekey,

WOW, that is awesome, thanks for posting the photos. Always great to see and old Tiki from a long gone establishment still alive and kicking.


YAY!! I hope the current trend of awesome Tiki's coming out of the shadows continues.

Great post Bail Tekey!


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