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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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W

This post will mostly be of interest to diehard Tiki historians...

From the September 3, 1961 Seattle Times:

"The Polynesia, new $500,000 restaurant on Pier 51, is like a prologue to a romantic poem, with every word and every syllable in the right place.
The materials and the motif go together in creating a South Seas atmosphere in a beautiful setting on Puget Sound. The high peaked 'long house' design with its interior walls of polished matched teakwood and grass cloth, the deeply carved beams and banquettes, the rattan chairs and the carved figures all have a Polynesian flavor.
Raymond H. Peck, the architect, who designed the restaurant, chose his central theme from the markings of ceremonial shieldas, canoe prows, and art of Tahiti, the Phillipine Islands and Pago Pago.
Peck used lava rock from the big island of Hawaii, precious woods from the Far East, coral and tree ferns (hapu), art carvings, sea shells, and hand-woven materials.
The heavy posts and beams, all carved, are more than 50 years old.They wer taken from the building razed to make way for the restaurant. They were carved with theme designs created by Peck.
The carving was done by Donald Keys and Donald Ingalls, Seattle artists. The markings on the post and beams are repeated in the china. A ceremonial shield design, taken from an authentic Marquesas shield found in a museum, is used as the cover for the menu.
A spiral fireplace in the main dining room rises from a reflecting pool on the floor to a black metal hood in the ceiling. The spiral is made of pipe, perforated to produce dozens of small open flames.
Three Tahitian Torches will mark the entrance.
The banquettes were carved by Whitco of Mt Vernon, a company which specializes in the carving of darkened cedar. A life-size Tiki figure, in the hallway, was carved in Manilla of monkey pod. Solid teak door pulls and a door panel were made by Keys and Ingalls.
Transparencies with Tahitian emblems laminated in plastic by Fay Chong, Pacific Northwest artist, mark the front on view side of the restaurant.
There is a modern air to the building, with its wide window walls taking in the broad sweep of Puget Sound and Seattle to the north and south.
A menu has been created to go along with the setting...(The restaurant) will feature lunch and dinner. It also has a cocktail lounge.
(Owner) Dave Cohn has engaged Anita Moore, a former resident of Tahiti, to inform guests on the customs and art of the Polynesians."

The Polynesia Restaurant (called the Poly by locals) remained at Pier 51 (which was owned by David Cohn) until the state condemend the Pier around 1981 in order to expand the Seattle ferry terminal. The Polynesia closed around May of 1981 and all of it's interior fixtures and furnishings were removed. Cohn looked for another location to physically move the Polynesia but zoning restrictions blocked his efforts ("I'm just sick," Cohn said. "I'd go anyplace. We've been kicked out of our own property by the state...and nobody will help us relocate...no one seems to care."). On the morning of January 25th, 1982 just after high tide, the entire Polynesia Restaurant was lifted in one piece off of Pier 51 by a large floating crane (there was a truly fantastic photo of this in the January 26, 1982 Seattle Times, showing the 3 A-frame peak roofed Polynesia hanging from the cables of the crane over open water). The Polynesia was "placed on a barge and towed to a site on the Duwamish River while the owners search for a new location."
Unfortunately a new location was never found. According to David Cohn the problem was the size of the Polynesian and zoning restrictions for available locations. Sometime after the Polynesia's mothballing Cohn gave up and let the Seattle Fire Department burn the structure for practice (I guess there's cold comfort in the fact that should a Seattle Tiki bar ever catch fire the SFD is well prepared).
David Cohn is still alive and the restaurant business he started is still going strong (it includes major Seattle area restaurants such as the Metropolitan and Elliot's). I spoke to him on the telephone. He said the Polynesia's architect, Raymond Peck, died a few years back. Of the Polynesia's origins Cohn said he took Peck to Pier 51 and said "Hey Ray, I want to build a Polynesian restaurant at this site and I can't even spell the word." Cohn said some of the Polynesia's fixtures were moved to some of his other restaurants but he couldn't recall what happened to the bulk of the interior.

[ Edited by: woofmutt on 2002-04-04 01:19 ]

T

This is a really touching and amazing story! I would love to see that photo of an airborne polyesian restaurant. Symbolic of the death and subsequent ascension to heaven of the polynesian restaurant craze?

I am anxiously awaiting further developments on this story.

Unbelievable! To think a Polynesian restaurant from the Polynesian Pop era in its entirety may possibly be tucked away is mind-blowing. I would certainly be interested in any follow up to this story.

What became of this restaurant? Was it eventually demolished? Was it disassembled and sold in pieces? Was it left to rot in storage? OR - Was it simply forgotten and still yet to be rediscovered????

Wonderful investigative work. It would be great to read more articles on what happened to other vanished tiki temples. Also, it would be fun to read more early reviews from their openings, if members can locate them.

Woofmut, finally stumbled across your stuff, great research, I want to use it for the book. What should the credit be? Strange paralell with the barge and the Vancouver Trader Vic's. And Pantley's Pagan Room must have been connected to Pantley's Pagan Hut in Depoe Bay, Oregon, where Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) used to hang out...

Thank god Depoe Bay still has the Sea Hag... a fine, crusty old seafarer dive unequaled on the Oregon coast. :wink:

[ Edited by: filslash 2008-09-12 14:50 ]

D

i didnt realize David Cohn of Polynesia fame, is the same guy who opened up Mr. Tiki in San Diego!

P

A bump to woofmutt's excellent post, with some visuals from a 1960's Polynesia souvenir menu mailer. This is the first paper ephemera I've seen which shows an interior photo of the restaurant ! Menus with the signature Marquesan shield logo are in two photos, as well as a nice view of the carved beams & spiral fireplace...

Front of mailer, with nice illustration of building exterior:

closer view:

Back page :

Interior photo of the restaurant:

Closer view...check out those tapa carved beams, and the spiral fireplace mentioned on the right :

Dinner & drinks page:

Closer view of drinks:

Restaurant description on mailer page:

[ Edited by: puamana 2007-01-01 19:41 ]

M

I remember it as a kid when I travelled to Seattle with my grandparents. At the time I thought it was cool but I didn't get tiki fever until much later. I also remember the Tropics motel. If the restaurant in stoorage needs a new place to be stored, please send the stuff to me in Bakersfield. :)

Beautiful! Very cool modern interior. Interesting that that early in the game their big Tiki was carved in the Philippines. I wonder how the designs on the bay windows looked, seems they also were done on the laminates the text talks about. The rendering is great, but it does not show the giant Witco masks yet.
...guess I have to scan a pic. :)

S
Swanky posted on Tue, Jan 2, 2007 8:42 AM

They had the female tiki ashtray! This thing popped up at my barber shop one day. Some 80 year old guy had brought it back from Hawaii decades ago and gave it to them to go with their wooden indian.

[ Edited by: filslash 2008-09-20 15:11 ]

what perfect timing for a bump of this posr. I just yesterday finished a painting of the logo Marquesan shield. I willpost it in creating tiki.
I also would like to make a model of the building for my museum diorama.

Here's some screen caps from the DVD of the 1962 Mutiny On The Bounty. They're from a bonus newsreel about a tour the replica of the Bounty made to various cities including Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. Guess where the Bounty docked in Seattle?

Well, what a perfect re-enactment of the historic happenings: The Bounty docks at the (island of) Polynesia, to have its crew replenished by island food and drink served by exotic beauties! Wonder if anyone thought of jumping ship...

T

MAn, thi was such a beautiful place. What a shame about it's demise. That place should have been kept as a museum piece for Mid Century Modern Architecture. It had so many amazing design elements.

I know, I would love to see a full view of the bayside windows,

...it seems that they had New Guinea mask designs on glass!:

M
Mo-Eye posted on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 2:59 AM

Just found this view which includes the Seattle Polynesia from 1978.

i was in seattle in 2006 at pier 51....isn't it the site of the seattle aquarium now??

W

This photo is looking east (actually sort of southeast) into the south part of downtown Seattle. (The pointy white building in the center of the picture is the Smith Tower. It was once Seattle's tallest building. It's also not far from the original "skid row.")

The Ferry Terminal, the chunky rusty brown structure in the left of the picture, is on Pier 52. The Polynesian was on pier 51.

The Seattle Aquarium is further north on Pier 59 and has been there since 1977.

Some more images of the Polynesia in Seattle. I think I posted these first two a long time ago, before I had a decent scanner. Time to re-post them on this thread.

These next three are from Sept. 1964 issue of "Architectural Record" magazine:

SOUTH PACIFIC LONG HOUSE ON WATERFRONT
The Polynesia restaurant has a dramatic setting at the end of a 125-foot-wide pier which extends 800 feet from the Seattle waterfront into Puget Sound, and its unusual triple A-frame form - inspired by the "halau" or long house - accentuates the dramatic location. The structure is of heavy timber, with special precautions due to the building's location. The necessary sprinkler system is installed, however, so that only the sprinkler heads penetrate to the interior; supply lines are mounted on the outside and run 2 inches off the roof. Charcoal-colored asbestos shingles provide fire-resistant roofing. The red cedar siding, set on a slant to parallel one line of the A-frames, is stained dark brown. The two-level dining area looks out over the sound to a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains. Most of the seating is built-in to resemble carved Polynesian benches. The cylindrical "fireplace" consists of 1-inch copper tube, bent into a spiral and drilled for gas gets, surrounded by a mesh screen. The architect no only designed the building but the menus as well, and selected the costumes for waiters and waitresses, using tangerine, gold, black and seal brown - the same basic colors used elsewhere in the building.

Finishing up with some photos of one of the huge Witco masks from the front of the Polynesia that Sophista-tiki spotted in West Seattle and documented in this thread:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=68&forum=1&start=15

The owner of the house found the mask floating in Elliot Bay after the restaurant had been lifted by crane onto a barge and moved.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-01-15 01:21 ]

What a freaken' waste. I can't believe they didn't try to sell that giant mask - instead letting it slip off into the water like so much detritus. I'm sad I never had an opportunity to go even though I've lived here all my life. At least I've been to the Bali Hai. Wonder where the Goof will end up after the remodel - probably floating in the bay - maybe it will make it's way to the navy base across the way and become their mascot!

Artifacts thrown in the bay! What gives. I would of thought in that era there would have been no shortage of takers for all that stuff! What a waste. I now have tears in my Mai Tai.

You have to remember that it was 1982 when the restaurant was moved and that was the low-point of Polynesian Pop appreciation. The article Woofmutt posted says that the interior artifacts were removed by the owner, but the workers moving the structure wouldn't have had any reverence for any decor still attached to the outside.

The 80s were when Bosko and a few other fans of the genre were finding the entire contents of these restaurants in dumpsters, and salvaging what they could. It was considered tasteless junk by most.

Sabu,

Those are some great pics from the Architectural Mag, nice to see a complete shot of the triple A-Frame with the Witco mask out front. It looks like there was another mask on the A-Frame on the left side as well, wonder what happened to that one.

DC

From the first hand info I got about finding the giant Witco in Elliot Bay I'm assuming that the other one could be at the bottom. I'll keep looking just incase it was saved.

W

The giant mask was flotsam, not jetsam. David Cohn fully intended to relocate the Polynesian somewhere else. I imagine it was not intended that the mask come off when the "Poly" was moved.

(EDIT:) I as just looking over Sophista-tiki's post on the mask. The current owner claimed "pieces of decor were being chucked in the water before they hauled the building away." But the restaurant was being moved, not torn down and this was right next to the ferry terminal where ferries come and go around the clock. And there's plenty of other marine traffic in the area. It would seem the authorities would frown on large pieces of wood and et cetera just being thrown in the water. And it seems unlikely that Cohn would want the Polynesian stripped of exterior decor if he planned to relocate it.

When I spoke with Cohn on the phone eight years ago it was obvious that he had really loved the Polynesian and was unhappy with the way things turned out. But, as I posted above, the city of Seattle wouldn't let him relocate it anywhere on the water.

[ Edited by: woofmutt 2010-01-15 18:40 ]

He should have built a ramp, launched it into the bay, put a "Kon Tiki II" sail on top, and sailed it to Polynesia! :)

On 2010-01-15 16:17, Dustycajun wrote:
It looks like there was another mask on the A-Frame on the left side as well, wonder what happened to that one.

Yup, this one below left, page 249 Tiki Modern:

I got the B&W photo from Bill Westenhaver like you see it, so it appears the negative got flipped when they printed it, kinda confusing. :)
I also noticed what looked like Tiki flanking the entrance in the new B&W shot form Sabu's post, so I zoomed into the postcard, couldn't make out much though:

S
Swanky posted on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 9:39 AM

On 2008-06-28 20:45, Sweet Daddy Tiki wrote:
Here's some screen caps from the DVD of the 1962 Mutiny On The Bounty. They're from a bonus newsreel about a tour the replica of the Bounty made to various cities including Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. Guess where the Bounty docked in Seattle?

A side note. THe rigging in the Molkai Bar at the Mai-Kai was done by the crew that worked on this Bounty remake.

On 2010-01-15 20:21, bigbrotiki wrote:
He should have built a ramp, launched it into the bay, put a "Kon Tiki II" sail on top, and sailed it to Polynesia! :)

On 2010-01-15 16:17, Dustycajun wrote:
It looks like there was another mask on the A-Frame on the left side as well, wonder what happened to that one.

Yup, this one below left, page 249 Tiki Modern:

I got the B&W photo from Bill Westenhaver like you see it, so it appears the negative got flipped when they printed it, kinda confusing. :)
I also noticed what looked like Tiki flanking the entrance in the new B&W shot form Sabu's post, so I zoomed into the postcard, couldn't make out much though:

i think that what you think is a tiki is actually the valet key box stand that holds all the car keys.....

Yup, clearly a case of "wishful Tiki-thinking". Or "Tiki in strange places".

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