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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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The Alamac Hotel in Manhattan at 171 West 71st Street at Broadway home to the Congo Room circa 1923. The Alamac was sold at auction to a bank in 1938.

The Congo Room designed by Winold Reiss is a radical design for the era.

This is one of the great quality photographs of a holy grail in the library of congress collection. Photograph of a proof of concept Tiki bar in 1922-23.


Winold Reiss (1886–1953) arrived in New York in 1913, the year of the ground-breaking Armory Show. The exhibition shook the American art scene to its core and ushered in a radically new artistic sensibility, whilst Reiss’s exuberant, dynamic designs anticipated the American passion for this new European avant-garde art. Steeped in a German aesthetic, Reiss brought his unique brand of modernism to the United States, and established a reputation and material presence in New York’s cultural and commercial landscape.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a blockbuster. "The Congo Room is an unfortunate name from the research standpoint. ‘Clearly, it should be decorated with African art,’ the purist might posit and allow it to slip by unnoticed." It's clearly abundant by evidence, it was not Art of the African Continent here, but Polynesia of a sort.

It’s too early to be a Tiki bar, but it is. Don Beach is credited with creating the atmosphere genre, but… obviously this German architect and graphic artist immigrant flirted with the concept a decade earlier.

I wonder how Reiss (who is about 30 in 1923 and lives until 1953.) felt seeing his same concepts taken to the extreme, and blossom into knowing he is the (possible) originator of the style. We all hold so dear, and unheralded.

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-11-03 12:37:35 ]


Lamp, hut, dining booths designs circa 1923 by Winold Reese.

So ten years after coming to America, he’s creating the AlaMac Hotel’s Congo Room. Honestly, in 1923, this IS A Tiki Bar. Just look at the sketches, and the small amount of documentation that has been uncovered. Pre-Tiki, yes. Called Tiki, no. But is it? Damn yes. And a far decade or so before Donn Beach.


The 1913 Armory show is mentioned in the first post. I need to read more about this and hope you will too. To be continued…

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-27 18:24:33 ]

BB485E31-3E41-44F6-A0BB-05346F2D0BC9This is described as a lamp shade, but we know what it really is. Can anyone go to Washington DC and get us the better resolution pictures? Honestly, I know these blowups of a screenshot are bad quality. Sorry.)

Oh, anyway off of eBay is this 1923 postcard. It seems to be looking a different angle. It’s yellowed and faded. I’m sure it could be enhanced up. (I don’t have photoshop right now.) It shows there are a great many of the Reiss Marquesas styled chairs both black and white versions and 3 lamps.

I like the nickname of the ‘African Roof’ room but another hinder in searches.


Ok back to the Library of congress search for the Alamac Hotel. Many pictures in Public Domain but very small thumbnails on line



[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-30 21:34:06 ]


This photo of the entrance is quite whimsical in execution of the drawing.

Entrance and Music hut circa 1923



[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-30 21:42:30 ]


Menu…. Looks quite like a…


More Winold Reiss…

https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/the-art-of-winold-reiss-an-immigrant-modernist Ooh.

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-20 12:03:20 ]

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-27 17:15:39 ]

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-27 17:15:48 ]




Staircase at Empire State Building by W. Reiss removed.

Oh, there is a daughter in law quoted in the article… Renate Reiss… married to W. Tjark Reiss. (A son who sadly passed in 2001.)

mailto:[email protected]


[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-11-19 14:16:21 ]


So much of the wall decorations you show seem to have been directly based on the set designs for The Ballet Russes by Léon Bakst, who worked from 1909 onward. The wild colours colours, primitive drawing style and exuberant "exoticism" became extremely influential for so many things from ceramics, women's clothing and interior decoration. Bakst's work, together with that of the concurrent Fauves painting movement with their wild brush work and strident colours, and their subject matter's high degree of simplification and abstraction, became a major source for European and American designers. Here is just one example of a Bakst background where the similarity to the work you show above is plainly evident. art_09_15

[ Edited by TIKIGIKI on 2022-09-27 20:05:01 ]

Thanks for the rabbit hole. Very interesting….

I think you bring up an interesting point that ties into the Armory show and the modern art being produced in Europe at that point. America is introduced to modern art here in mass, but German artist Winold Reiss would have probably been aware of cubism, primitive, etc. No doubt he’d find great interest in an exhibit like that…



Gauguin did exhibit at this event… Far right on the floor plan.

The Congo Room mural would be in similar tints one imagines. Reiss’s other mural work is quite vibrant.


[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-30 21:39:00 ]


Couch. Coat /hat check at the entrance at the Congo Room.

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-09-30 21:58:19 ]


I really don't see where to write the archives and ask for better pictures to be loaded Grrr.

[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-10-01 13:34:03 ]

Have at it. There used to be u-mod function that you could suggest it moved to a different forum. I’d really like to see it moved to the Main forum!


[ Edited by Phillip Roberts on 2022-11-06 09:54:19 ]

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