Welcome to the Tiki Central 2.0 Beta. Read the announcement
Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

Tiki Central / Locating Tiki

Kahiki Motel & Tiki Lounge, Winter Haven, FL (motel)

Pages: 1 11 replies


Name:Kahiki Motel & Tiki Lounge
Street:401 Sixth Street NW
City:Winter Haven

Polynesian Motel and Lounge


I just found this little piece of paradise:

From the March 13, 1964 (Friday the 13th) issue of the Winter Haven Daily News Chief:

“Exotic Kahiki in Final Stage”

“Winter Haven’s Polynesian Motor Lodge - The Kahiki - on Sixth St. NW, was ready to go into final stages of construction today with a building permit for the last two structures and a special approval from the Board of Adjustment for bar and cocktail lounge. The Construction permit, obtained yesterday, carried an estimated $95,000 cost for building alone. The permit is for the dining room facilities and the bar and lounge. They are separate structures connected with walkways surrounded by reflecting pools and a lagoon. Both front on Sixth St. and are adjacent to the north of the present motel facilities.

Several other buildings in the Kahiki complex are already completed or in the process of construction. The ‘Polynesian Garden of Eden,’ as it has been called by its developers, will cover four and a half acres and will have, throughout, a South Seas atmosphere, both in its architectural features and in its furnishings, as far as is possible. Thomas Kincaid is the architect.

The board of adjustment held the hearing on the Kahiki request for a special approval yesterday. No one objected and the board ruled in favor of the company. A sideline variance of seven feet asked by Velda Dairy for some construction on the property on Sixth St. SW, was also granted by the board.”

And from the April 16th, 1964 issue of the same:

“Kahiki Lodge Opens Tiki Lounge Today”

“The new Tiki Lounge officially opened today. This is the first phase of a massive undertaking at the Kahiki Motor Lodge on Sixth St. NW. The Six and a half acre Polynesian Lodge will include three lounges, a 700 seat dining room, a lagoon with natural rock stage in its center and a “volcano” at one end, a hundred motel rooms, beer gardens, and a beach and marina on Lake Howard. Foundations for the dining room and other lounge have already been laid, the lagoon is ready for water, and the completed lodge is scheduled to be opened this fall. The Tiki, which seats nearly 100 people, has been done in a modern Hawaiian motif and will feature a band and singer and Oriental waitresses.

Ed Krochman’s Showman Orchestra will play nightly, and Mary Lou Gonzales, a local girl, will sing. There is a dancing area under a thatched roof near the band. There will be a waterfall tumbling down the front of the building, and another at the back which can also be seen from the lounge. A moat with fish and tropical plants surround the entire lounge.

The house next to the present motel will be used as a casual lounge, for swimmers, fishermen and the like. The new lounge will be built on the north side of the lagoon extending out over the water, and will be 17th century Polynesian. A tunnel lined with fluorescent rock will lead to the dining room, past a seven foot Polynesian god. The dining room itself will be built like a native village and will be designed so that diners can see different scenery each time they visit . The dining room, which also will extend out over the lagoon, and the lounge and the house will all face the natural rock stage in the middle of the lagoon. This is the only outdoor stage in the state, according to the developer.

An ‘active volcano’ will be built at the end of the lagoon near the street. It will ‘erupt’ every half hour or so, according to present plans. There will be a rathskeller in the house, and beer gardens behind it. Eventually, several additional motel units will be built overlooking Lake Howard, and a beach and marina will be constructed on the lake. Among the many unique features of the complex will be a teen center so the young people can have a place to go while the parents relax in the lounge.

Roy Beasley, the man behind the operation, say ‘We plan to start where others leave off. No details have been overlooked, no expense spared to make this the best of its kind anywhere.’ It will be a ‘vacationers’ paradise,’ he said. The management will arrange trips to Cypress Gardens, the Bok Tower and other attractions in the area. Beasley started dreaming about this many years ago and has taken pictures and looked at plans of similar places throughout the country. He has used the best ideas of all he has seen and added a few of his own to this project. C. A. (Gus) Hydron, one of the eight local businessmen who own the complex, will manage the operation. He, too, has spent many years on the project and is very pleased with the outcome.”

Here are some ads for the place too :down:

So from the descriptions in the articles, it looks like the "The Volcano" in this thread:


was actually part of this complex originally. The Tiki Lounge was just opening here in April 1964, but it sounds like the motel part was already open for a little bit. From reading The Volcano thread, it seems like the Tiki Lounge and Kahiki Motel had already gone under by the time The Volcano opened in 1968. The Kahiki must have been the ones who defaulted on their loan. It looks like you may be doomed to fail if your announcement in the paper runs on Friday the 13th. This would explain why The Volcano seemed to have prime time, early 1960s Poly Pop style happening in the late 60s.

All of the buildings are still there as a Budget Inn. I think someone really needs to go down and snoop around all of the surrounding properties.


Found some more great info:

From the September 20, 1964 issue of the Winter Haven News Chief:

“Bob Van Dorpe Named Tiki Consultant”

“Bob Van Dorpe has been engaged by the Kahiki Corporation to serve as a special consultant for its swank restaurant soon to open in Winter Haven. Van Dorpe comes from Chicago, IL. As part of the organizational program, Van Dorpe said today that he will start immediately bringing Polynesian entertainment to the Tiki Lounge and that the restaurant will be opened as soon as possible.

Roy Beasley, president of the Kahiki Corporation, said that the company is very fortunate in obtaining the services of Van Dorpe, whose affinity for the Polynesian way of life plus his management skill, make him the perfect man for the job. Widely known in trade circles for his vast know how, Van Dorpe has a complete background in all phases of Polynesian restaurant operations. He served as assistant manager of Don the Beachcomber in Chicago, vice president of Mai-Kai, Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale, and vice president of Konini, Inc. in Honolulu, Hawaii.”

Caption for the below photo reads, “Bob Van Dorpe, right, noted Chicago architect, checks plans for the new Polynesian Restaurant being built for the Kahiki Corporation on Sixth St. with Philip Maka, mixologist."

Van Dorpe's involvement here, as well as the Mai Kai, may be the answer to the debate on The Volcano thread on how the Mai Kai bowl ended up there...

Wow Mo, you are piecing together Florida Tiki history one by one! Kailuageoff, are you reading these posts? This is becoming enough material to write a book just about Florida Tiki!

Ha, I thought all along that it was odd that someone would open a Polynesian restaurant in a small town as late as 1968! So Volcano Girl's mom's memory was somewhat incomplete, she failed to remember that it was already a POLYNESIAN paradise when her husband (forced by the necessity of his dad owning the property where the Tiki Lounge had defaulted), became a restaurateur:

On 2007-02-17 21:35, Volcano Girl wrote:
One was that my grandfather did own all the property that encompassed that block when he had the house built in the early 40's, but began selling off parcels around 1959 or 1960 to some group (she didn't know what group), which eventually turned those things into the "Haven Hotel", Nick Rubas'(?) Greek place (which she said was originally on Park St), the Continental Can Company, possibly a drugstore,....

....as well as someone else who began to turn Dad's former home into a restaurant. Apparently, whoever it was who started with the restaurant theme defaulted on the loan before renovation was completed, and the lot with the restaurant/house on it returned to my grandfather's possession..... .....It was at this point that my father became involved in continuing in the effort to transform his old home into the Volcano (1967?). I don't know how long he spent in the planning stages, but Mom says she thinks they may have officially opened in early 1968, possibly January, but possibly a few months later. She said that the name was Dad's brainchild, because she remembers him thinking a lot about how to market a restaurant when it wasn't his expertise at the time. She does think that he traveled around to some places where there was a Polynesian theme, and she is sure that he had seen the place in Ft. Lauderdale at some point.

The Jean Higgins article on page 10 of the Volcano thread mentions that the place was "Partially constructed and then abandoned a few years ago..."

That Roy Beasley must have been a real dreamer but lacking business talent, for the Kahiki/Tiki to only have lasted 3 years --or perhaps the size of the place was impossible to be supported by a small town like Winterhaven- yet he seemed to have gotten a whole group of financiers involved (part of which was Volcano Girl's grandfather). The allure of TIKI was strong in those days! :)
Wish I could get a full shot of that "dancing Polynesian couple" mural you can see behind the band in one of the ads. Wonder if there were any postcards/matches/menus made....

Would be interesting to see where that "New Management" ad fits into the time line date-wise, obviously the first sign of economic troubles. If I read the ads right, they had "Polynesian Atmosphere" first, and only later "Tropical cocktails"? Gotta love "Music by the Blalas" and "Dances by Tida". Some local talent who had to come up with a name fast? :)

I recommend everyone to check out The Volcano thread, especially from the point when Volcano Girl got her mom's memorabilia:


It is one of the great success stories of Tiki Central, to have found and inspired a descendant of Restaurant owner to dig further and come up with all this great material, and being supported by the research of so many inspired TCers! :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-05-14 07:01 ]



The "New Management" ad ran in September 1964, so i assume that was just announcing the arrival of Bob Van Dorpe, replacing Gus Hydron. That's definitely a bad sign when management changes even before the place is completely finished. It seems that only the 1964 issues of this paper are on line, and we really need the next couple years to find out what happened. I don't think this place lasted long at all, and wouldn't be surprised if some of the sections mentioned above were never finished. If Volcano Girl's Mom didn't mention this place, and neither do the articles she posted, then maybe this place was already long closed by the time her parents started doing something on the property, maybe only lasted a year?


[ Edited by: Mo-Eye 2009-05-14 13:21 ]

That "Now! Tropical cocktails" ad either means that they did not get a liquor license right away --or I can imagine this funny Tiki cartoon drawing were a few lust-less customers are sitting in a tropical restaurant, and flies are buzzing over the bar counter, and the proprietor is scratching his head and saying "Hmm, I feel like I forgot something!"

...and then they hired Bob van Dorpe, who proved his expertise by announcing "What YOU need is a mixologist!" and brought in Philip Maka! But it was too late...

I love fanciful but purely hypothetical musings about Poly pop history... :D

Great post. Here is an overhead image of the Budget Inn. Looks like there may be some remnants of the complex worth checking out. some structures that are of interest are marked with red arrows. The motel, an A-frame roofed building to the north west and the white roofed building just to the north of the motel. This white roofed building may have been the restaurant. also another building just north of the white roofed building. And dare I hope some type of volcano shaped structure marked with a white arrow. The article states a large complex was in the plan with several buildings. This defiantly calls for a ground assault armed with a camera.

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

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-05-14 18:58 ]

On 2009-05-14 18:49, uncle trav wrote:
This defiantly calls for a ground assault armed with a camera.

Someone already assaulted the place:
If you follow the evolution of the complex into THE VOLCANO in the thread linked above, you will see Gator Rob already went and photographed the place...not to mention all the great bird's eye POVs of the place posted on that thread.


Great research Mo-Eye! Looks like more pieces to the puzzle. Back when I went exploring over there, I had no idea the Volcano might have been part of a much larger complex. You would never know it now. I didn't spot anything remotely Polynesian in style over there except the A-frame. And there is nothing between the A-frame building and the lake.

It does seem baffling that so much money would have been poured into a place at this location. Now, before Interstate 4 was completed, the main road between Tampa and Orlando must have been Hwy 17-92, which runs right through the middle of Winter Haven and just to the north of the Volcano site by a few blocks. So at that time I can understand a place like the Volcano popping up there. After all, the Mai-Kai was located way out in the middle of nowhere in 1956, but it was on Federal Hwy, a main artery through south Florida before I-95 was built.

But I-4 was completed from Tampa to Orlando in 1962, which is before this complex that preceded the Volcano was built. And I'm sure the interstate took years to complete with lots of publicity, so obviously these guys knew about it. Maybe what they didn't realize was how much of an impact the interstates would make on highway travel. It seems likely, because they sure didn't last long.


Thanks Rob!

Did you explore the Budget Inn property at all when you were there?


No, I didn't, sorry. I did see it though and it's obvious it's been there for decades, but I didn't see anything that gave any hints to its past.


Better late than never...

Bob Van Dorpe emphatically said he left Florida for good after the Mai-Kai. Obviously there is this. I imagine he brought his drink recipes with him as he did at the Bora Bora in SF which he oversaw after the Mai-Kai.

Pages: 1 11 replies