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The Sinking of the Admiral Benbow Inn...And Its Rising From The Depths

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TikiMaxton's mention of his Trader Vic's bar guide find reminded me of a story I was too lazy to relate when it happened...

About a month ago I came across a reference to the Admiral Benbow Inn, an old West Seattle lounge that sounded like it had an untouched nautical theme to it. I planned to check it out some day, but some day never came.
Two weekends ago I overheard some people praising the Benbow and I asked them about it. I was told it had just closed due to the sudden death of the owner. There had been a big "last call" hurrah (featuring Seattle's Seafair Pirates) and the auction of its fixtures had been the night before. I was in the neighborhood and stopped by the Benbow where an "estate sale" was wrapping up. I got to look around the joint and immediately began kicking myself in the ass for having missed out.
The place had a sort of "Treasure Island" theme (apparently Admiral Benbow was a character in that book). The main seating area in the lounge was made to look as if you were inside a huge old sailing ship. There was a wall of stained glass across the "bow" and from what folks told me there had been a light effect behind the glass so it looked like sun reflecting off of water. At the push of a button located behind the bar there would be thunder storm sounds and lightning flashes across the ceiling and behind the stained glass. The storm would subside and through the stained glass it would look as if the sun was coming out from behind the clouds. A room near the lounge was done up with driftwood wainscotting and rope trim, with a fountain in a corner made up of plastic greenery and a series of rum barrels. Water poured from one barrel to another and then into a rock pool.
The Admiral Benbow Inn had been opened for just over half a century (Francis Farmer used to hang out there when it first opened). Some of the waitresses had worked there since its opening. While I was looking around quite a few people stopped by saying how they had just heard about the closure and how shocked they were. There was a lot of restaurant odds and ends for sale (25 cents an item) and I felt more than a little vulture like as I pawed through the boxes while people reminisced with the waitresses manning the sale about their times at the Admiral Benbow Inn. I picked up a few useful items including a 1948 copy of Trader Vic's bar guide. I payed for my stuff, the waitress said "Here's your gift," and handed me a sugar shaker with sugar and a saltine cracker in it. Out in the car I opened the cover of the Vic's bar guide and saw written on the endpaper "To catch up on all the good times we missed."

[ Edited by: woofmutt 2010-05-19 10:13 ]


Clearly, the moral of this story is that when we have an opportunity to experience something new in the realm of tiki (or its fellow-traveler genres of kitsch) we must lose no time in taking it. Given that a lot of us are avid thrifters, this concept should come naturally, as we know that you must always buy something you need (want) at a thrift store the minute you see it, for it will not be there tomorrow.

BTW, that was a well-written anecdote. It surely captured the melancholy we all feel when part of this weird little subculture fades away.

Sounds like this was a wonderful place. The Admiral Benbow Inn was where young Jack Hawkins lived with his poor mother, and where Long John Silver came calling after a treasure map... Of course the tale was written by Robert Louis Stevenson who also was a traveler and writer in Polynesia (so there is a tiki connection).
Maybe they had a postcard or two that you can find, or an old menu with photos.
One of the things I love most about tiki-themed places is the romantic convergence of sailing ships and Polynesia (sailors & wahines). This is the motiff of the Molokai Bar at the Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale.


the admiral benbow. the memphis one...is genius.

Woof, what a great story! Why didn't we know about that place sooner? We could've gone in together to buy it and turn it into the ultimate nautical/tiki bar (not to be confused with a "naughty" tiki bar, like the strip club in LA)!

MAN, why am I always the last to know?!


Dilaudid, you're joking about the Admiral Benbow in memphis right? It's just a lame chain motel like Knight's Inn or Super 8, right?


What makes the demise of the Admiral Benbow Inn even more personally annoying is that I live about one mile from it. I kept planning to stop by on a day off and didn't. Even more annoying is all the dives I've stuck my head into with names like Harbour Lights, Driftwood Inn, Whispering Palms, and Tiki Bob's hoping to find something Tiki or even nautical. What was it that girl with the red shoes said at the end of that classic drug trip film...Something about happiness in your own back yard...

Just found this while searching for the thread about the Polynesian. I used to go to the benbow all the time before I even moved to westr seattle as I recal the interior was very Witco!

I grew up three blocks from the Benbow Inn. I loved that place when I was a kid. It was like going to Disneyland.

Every year we would have the Seafair Parade and the pirates, who drove a pirate ship in the parade, would go to the Benbow after the parade was over. They'd park their ship outside the inn and go get drunk. It was such a hoot.

I always wanted to see someone take the place over and spruce it up. It had a great grotto nautical uber 60's lounge feel to it.

The place is still there and to my mom's knowledge, has not really been touched.

Can it be saved?

Would truly be a perfect location for a tiki bar.



"Can it be saved?"

When we perfect time travel, yes.

My original post was made over seven years ago. I believe the building was there unchanged (exterior) a while ago (I'm in the Junction occasionally but rarely go to the Admiral District). I don't know what happened to the space the Admiral Benbow occupied but I think the entire ship themed interior was sold at the sale.

The Admiral Benbow has risen from the depths as the Benbow Room!

You can read Monkeyskull's post in Locating Tiki HERE.

And you can read his post (and link to pictures!) on his fun Project K-Bar blog HERE.

It is so nice to put my nose in a thread about some great historic place and actually stumble upon a happy ending! Mahalo, Woof...I needed this today!!!

I am so damn tired OF reading about legendary places I have yet to try...or taste, only to see an endless posting of pictures showing the demise of some far away wonderland. I surely hope I get to read more posts about the resurrection of other vintage jewels.

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