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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Rise and fall of The Polynesia, Seattle WASH
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Rise and fall of The Polynesia, Seattle WASH
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 26, 2002
Posts: 2639
From: Seattilite Telstar
Posted: 2002-04-03 01:24 am   Permalink

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.

[ This Message was edited by: woofmutt on 2002-04-04 01:19 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2720
From: Toronto,Canada
Posted: 2002-04-03 07:48 am   Permalink

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.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2370
From: Corona, Ca
Posted: 2002-04-03 08:12 am   Permalink

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????


Poly-Pop *

Bartender, make mine a glass of WATAHHH!!!!!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 27, 2002
Posts: 1506
From: Honolulu Lounge,Lewes, DE
Posted: 2002-04-03 12:28 pm   Permalink

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.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11594
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2002-04-15 2:22 pm   Permalink

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...

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Frenchy Polynesia

Joined: Apr 05, 2002
Posts: 0
Posted: 2002-04-16 9:33 pm   Permalink

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

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Phillip Roberts
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1661
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2004-09-23 01:52 am   Permalink

[ This Message was edited by: filslash 2008-09-12 14:50 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 2244
From: seattle, wa
Posted: 2006-02-13 3:10 pm   Permalink

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

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 02, 2002
Posts: 290
From: Seattle, WA
Posted: 2007-01-01 7:35 pm   Permalink

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:

[ This Message was edited by: puamana 2007-01-01 19:41 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 28, 2006
Posts: 163
From: Bakersfield, California
Posted: 2007-01-02 06:12 am   Permalink

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.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11594
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-01-02 06:24 am   Permalink

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.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5311
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2007-01-02 08:42 am   Permalink

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.

"Mai-Kai: History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant" the book

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Phillip Roberts
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1661
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2007-02-06 12:48 pm   Permalink

[ This Message was edited by: filslash 2008-09-20 15:11 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 13, 2005
Posts: 1893
From: Seattle WA
Posted: 2007-02-06 3:33 pm   Permalink

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.

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Sweet Daddy Tiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 20, 2003
Posts: 1099
From: Edmonton
Posted: 2008-06-28 8:45 pm   Permalink

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?

-Sweet Daddy T.
Because crap doesn't buy itself.

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