Sunday, April 26, 2009

Memories of the Leilani

Growing up in Milwaukee, my sole exposure to the Tiki Drink universe was an exotic club along Blue Mound Road in the suburb of Brookfield, called The Leilani Motel. By the time I remember passing it by while in the back seat of my parents' station wagon, in the early 70s, the place was horribly old-fashioned. Even to my young sensibilities, I knew it belonged to the past.

When it opened, however, it was supremely hip and romantic. I was told that Frank Sinatra would entertain there.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry forwarded me the following article, which appeared in the Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha is a small city to the west of Milwaukee) in 1961. I feel an extra twinge in my heart reading it, because the Freeman was my first professional gig as a journalist.

Tiki' Taking Shape in Front of Motels; They're Made of Lava

By Tom Barber
Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD - A German sculptor carved South Sea island stone idols for a Polynesian restaurant in Brookfield today.

It all happened at The Leilani motel, 18615 W. Blue Mound Road, whose owners are in the midst of a $750,000 expansion program.

The motel is being doubled in size. But of more interest to most passers-by is a steep roofed supper club under construction just east of the motel.

Sculptor Gerhard E. Kroll, Milwaukee, is at work on the lawn in front of the restaurant fashioning large Hawaiian "tiki"– stone images of a religious significance in primitive South Pacific cultures.

The tiki will be used to decorate five dining rooms and two cocktail lounges in the restaurant. A large one will be placed outdoors.

Kroll has resided in Milwaukee for about two years. He studied art at the University of Wisconsin there.

The lightweight rock he is using actually is lava. Its porosity makes it easy to work. Saws, axes and knives replace the traditional hammer and chisel. Kroll expects to work a large pile of the stones into figures in about two weeks.

Along with Krolls sculpture the restaurant will be docorated with fireproof thatch ceilings, tabletops of monkey pod wood, monkey pod and coconut carvings, Hawaiian lighting fixtures and tropical plants.

Outside there will be live palm trees (to be stored indoors during the winter), fountains, and a sign illuminated with jets of fire.

Owner Paul Fecher said waitresses in the restaurant and the Malahini and Homaka cocktail lounges will wear sarongs. He hopes to hire a Hawaiian-born chef and a group of Tahitian dancers and singers to perform at the restaurant's opening about Sept. 1.

The menu will be "about 60 percent Polynesian food and 40 percent American," Fechner predicted. Dining rooms will seat 275. Banquet rooms below will be large enough for 500 to 600 persons. An automobile manufacturer will have a display downstairs.

The sharply gabled roof over the new restaurant carries out the style of the nearby motel. Both were designed by Milwaukeean Alan Wiederman. The motel addition is a two story wing attached to the south of the existing building.

Fechner has elaborate plans for future additions at "Leilani Village." East of the restaurant, on land formerly occupied by a competing motel which the Leilani bought, a heliport will be built.

Nine acres of land south of the motel have been purchased for a nine hole pitch-and-put golf course. A pond on the tract will be enlarged. The purchase of 12 to 14 more acres, where an Olympic sized pool and cabana club will be constructed.

The golf course and pool are on the agenda for next year. Sometime later, Fechner said, he hopes to build several town houses along the south edge of the golf course. They would be rented for longer periods of time than the motel units.

The Leilani was torn down in 1996. The horror of its destruction is depicted below. Wonder what ever happened to those Tikis sculpted out of lava. Returned to the volcano?


matt fagan said...

what a great motel and great owners
harold and emily were the best
matt fagan elm grove wis

Anonymous said...

Take a drive down county highway x south of highway 59 in Waukesha right about Glendale road you will find one of the Leilani tiki statues.

matt fagan said...

you may remember driving down bluemound rd and seeing the blinking harolds lelani motel sign
you wer always welcomed by harold and emily the best rooms in town
with enchanting acomidations
the greatest pool indoors its a shame they tore it down the work and friendleness that harold and emily gave to people will never be forgoten harold died a few years ago it was a honor to no him and emily they wer very good hearted people to me and all who walked through the doors of the lelanie
i can still remember the winter storms and driving back to the motel and seeing harold plowing the
parking lot in his 1960 jeep with one headlight working i new i was
back at the lelanie and as i could see the harolds sign blinking
i remember the day it was towrn down it was a sad day emily still ownes the land there
matt fagan elm grove wis