Saturday, January 22, 2011

Larger than life: the Kapok Tree Restaurant

Note: Since this post was published in 2011, the Kapok Tree tribute website sadly disappeared. 

Growing up in Florida, I was vaguely aware of the Kapok Tree Restaurant, but I never dined there because I never visited Clearwater. As I began collecting vintage Florida ephemera I kept coming across postcards of the restaurant that looked more like a palace in Europe than any place I'd ever dined. And when I saw photos on Flickr and discovered the website dedicated to preserving the memories of this amazing place, it quickly made my list of places to visit in the Sunshine State. Unfortunately on the day I visited near Thanksgiving, it was anything but sunny, but that did not diminish the grandeur and opulence that was once one of this country's premier eating establishments.

The website created by Ben Mancine is very comprehensive, if you want to know anything about the amazing place, the information is already online. So thanks to Ben, here is a little history of the Kapok Tree:
  • The namesake Kapok Tree was planted with seedlings from India by citrus grower Robert Hoyt who came to the area in the late 19th century
  • By the 1940s the tree had grown to such a size that it was already a popular local attraction
  • The Kapok Tree Restaurant was created by musician and restaurateur Richard Baumgardner in 1958
  • Postcards of the restaurant read " Country Dinners served beside Florida's Famous Kapok Tree in the midst of exotic tropical gardens." According to the website: "...menu choices were ham, fried chicken, fried shrimp or T-bone steak... all came with roasted potatoes, hush-puppies, green peas served family-style and a lazy susan relish tray with creamy coleslaw and famous apple butter..."
  • The Kapok Tree Inns Corporation went public in 1970 and opened other Kapok Tree restaurants in Madiera Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach
  • In 1976, the same year it was named one of the top 100 restaurants in United States, founder Baumgardner passes away
  • After ownership changes and litigation among family members for control of the restaurant chain in the 1980s, the restaurant closed for good in 1991
  • Today the property is owned and maintained by 3 separate business: the Sam Ash Music Store, the Players School of Music and the Kapok Special Events Company

The Florida Room featured native plants, floor to ceiling fountains and twenty statues

The Italian Fountains, "the carvings are the work of Morselletto from Vencenza, Italy, whose grandfather built the DuPont mansion in Delaware," says Ben Mancine

The Kapok Tree Mall was over 300 feet long and featured Italian sculpture, gift shops and the ticket booth where one purchased tickets for a ham, chicken, steak or shrimp dinner.

Diners in the Florida Room in 1978


The popular Grand Ballroom featured views of the South Garden and had decorations recreated from the Medici Palace in Florence

Fountain in the Mall as it looked in the mid-twentieth century
Images from the State Archives of Florida
Map of the entire complex

From Ben's Tribute To Clearwater's Fabled Kapok Tree Restaurant website

Vintage postcard of the Red Velvet Lounge

Vintage postcard of the namesake Kapok Tree


Vintage postcard of the Patio Dining Room

My visit to the site was unexpected and I thank my friend Simon for acting as chauffeur. The tree itself is huge and still a powerful presence from the road. We visited the North Gardens first where they appeared to be preparing for a wedding. Despite icky green water in the Italian Fountains, the place appeared to be pretty well maintained. Next we entered the Mall near the ticket booth and were immediately overwhelmed at the scale of the room. Even with musical instruments allover the place it is still a grand space. My immediate reaction was regret that I had not seen it in its prime. But I am still grateful it is largely intact.


The Kapok Tree today

The North Garden

Indoor plants press against the glass, survivors of more glorious days

After wandering around what was the Mall we ducked into the Gallery Room to marvel at the great chandelier. Much of the statuary, light fixtures and interior decoration still remain and seem odd juxtaposed to the garish retail fixtures of the music store. Certain areas are closed to anyone but employees, but we poked our head into to see more amazing spaces, hidden from public view.

The Mall today

The Gallery Room



Much of the building's exterior is covered in beautiful wallpaper-like covering and there is still a great deal of architectural detail. We concluded our trip after exploring the West Garden beneath the canopy of the great tree. I could just see excited snowbirds in the 1960s, lined up here to for a big family-style dinner in the grandest place they had ever set foot in. If you get a chance to visit pay homage to the remnants of this over-the-top mid-century dining experience, by all means, do it!




90 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for the history of this place and the recent photos! By the amount of souvenir glasses from this place that I've seen in my thrifting I can attest that this was indeed a place the snowbirds dug!

    Congrats on your 300th post! These things add up quickly, don't they?

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    1. Yes, I have a glass; looks like fashioned after bamboo. Parents let me have a MaiTai (teen) while we waited in the long line out in the hall of gardens. I don't remember the food much but do the bathroom of mirrors. Wow!

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  2. Hey Rick, A few years ago my dad took me to the site of the old kapok tree restaurant in Davie (Ft. Lauderdale). It was grown over greek columns and empty ponds but I can see from your pictures how it must have been impressive in it's time.
    It's now a city park but I'm not sure if they've renovated it. It's on the grounds of one of the highest natural ridges in the area that my dad told me used to be used by the native americans. Not sure about the details.

    It's right across the street from Flamingo Gardens, which is definitely a place you'll want to check out if you're exploring South Florida!

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    1. I remember visiting the one in Davie as a kid, back when that place was the boonies and taking pictures with the statues. A lifetime ago.

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    2. My dad and mom used to take us to dinner there when we lived in Boca in the 70s. It was impressive then. I still remember it and I am 56 now

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    3. My Mom and stepdad used to take me to the kapok tree in the seventies I loved it I grew up in Bradenton area and it would take us forever to get there it seemed but it was worth it the food I remember was awesome and I remember the glass bowers all in the gardens it was truly an excitement every time we went hate it is closed now I am 49 and have great memories of the kapok tree thanks for sharing

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    4. I remember visiting in the late 50's when it was just a non discript restaurant that featured a large cage of peacocks at the front door. I would love to see pictures from that period in time

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    5. When my grandparents took me and my parents there, we got to dine in the room that would open the glass ceiling up to see the stars...I loved this place! So grand!

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    6. Oh my gosh...... many memories, seems like every time we came down from Chicago to see Grams in Tampa we made a trip to t
      he Kapok Tree. We too had many of the tall glasses. Thanks Thanks Rick for the pics!! Now that I live in NW FL my next trip south will definitely include an homage stop!! SO happy the tree is still alive and well!!! :)

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    7. Our dad took all 8 kids there in the late 60's. I was the youngest, but I remember it being the most magical place I had ever seen.

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  4. Amy- I'd love to see the one in Davie. It must be on an old Indian shell mound. And I'll ad Flamingo Gardens to my list!

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  5. Great to see the Kapok Tree as it is today, but also sad. We lived in Tampa in the late 60s and often went to the Kapok Tree Restaurant in its heyday. I don't remember prices, but we were recently married and definitely not rich, barely middle class -- just out of college -- so it must have been reasonably priced. I had never had any elegance and I loved the elegance of the Kapok Tree Restaurant. The food was simple, but marvelous. Dining was not rushed; very relaxing. Nothing like today! I am coming back to Florida to live and wish I could eat at the Kapok Tree. I believe the images we see today, even in jewelry, of the Tree of Life are the Kapok [Lupuna] Tree.

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    1. I visited the'tree' in 1971 & again in 1985, & what an experience. I think the price from'85 was around $15--all you could eat. It was a beautiful place, & I am sad that it is no longer!! Truly the Kapok Tree is home to many & does remind me of the tree of life

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  6. Wow, the Kapok Tree. My parents took me there to eat once when I was a kid and I remember thinking it was a palace. I returned for my prom night (my hometown is New Port Richey so not far) and had a Planter's punch. We did have a few of those souvenir glasses, too. I don't remember the food at all.

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    1. After he Planter's Punch, it's not a surprise you don't remember the food!

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  7. Yeah, it must have been reasonbly priced. My parents were quite frugal, but we made the trip from Lutz to Clearwater now and then....and occasionally we hit the Kapok Tree. Very posh to a child from Lutz!!! I remember getting a special treat every time we went there: rock candy.

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    1. Are you related to Joyce Jonaitis? My husband and I were reminiscing aboit the Kapok tree and looked at this site. If so, our parents were good friends
      Carol Hartney

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  8. This has made my day. Your photo #10 of 31 with the 2 ladies and the one man, the smaller white haired lady is my Grandmother. Marguerite Richards Hill. I have been looking for that photo for years. She was actually in 2 postcards for the Kapok Tree. She just happened to be there to eat when the photographer saw her in the red coat and asked if she would mind being in the photos. She and my Grandfather Fred B Hill would spend the winter in Clearwater, they were from Greenwich, NY.

    Thank you for putting this photo on here.

    Nancy Hill Bradford

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    1. Nancy Hill Bradford ~ Yours IS a Beautiful Family Story!!! Absolutely Loved Reading Your Post!!!!! And, Thank U Rick for Posting this Fabulous Kapok Tree Background!!!! Yes Sireee, a few fellow Worker Bess and I Enjoyed Dinner at the KapoK Restaurant in 1989 (:)!!! I Was Totally Wowed!!! Twas a Fascinating Place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Herb Bryant; VoA311@Gmail.com


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    2. I visited the Kapok Tree restaurant in Clearwater in the early 70s. I couldn't get over the beauty of the restaurant and the meals were priced so reasonable. There used to be a radio program which was narrated by Pascal Roberts from that area and I got to meet him when I was just 13 years old.My parents and I visited him at his home and he was a gardener; loved showing us all his garden. Rita

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  9. I worked there in the early 70's. Anyone remember the awesome corn fritters?

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    1. My totally absolute favorite food memory. I try to duplicate them from time to time. The powdered sugar was the perfect accent!

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    2. I forgot about those fritters. They were amazing, with the powdered sugar on them. I can almost taste them :)

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    3. My family and I went when I was a child late 70s or early 80s. It was a wonderful place, beautiful. The only thing I remember about the food was the peppermint ice cream. Didn't they have that?

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    4. I also worked there in the early seventies,and went there regulary in the 60's with my parents. I lived in Dunedin witch was very close

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    5. I loved the corn fritters!!

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    6. My uncle worked there, I believe it was in the late 80s up until it closed back in 91. He wven still had his uniform too

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  10. My parents used to take me there as a kid all the time for dinners in the Grand Ballroom... what great memories!

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  11. From 1969 through 1971 our Wildwood High School Cheerleaders attended a one day workshop in Clearwater, FL. Afterward, we would go to the beach, then end our day at the Kapok Tree. We made such great memories there. The food was great.The atmosphere was like nothing a bunch of girls from a very small town had ever seen. We visited during the time when local artisans would gather in the garden blowing glass ornaments and sketching charicatures....and yes, we all had one done at one time or another. When we were dating, my first husband and I went there to commemorate our "first anniversary". Unfortunately, there were no artisans in the garden but it was still beautiful and the food was still great. Thank you for posting all the lovely pictures.It was a great walk through a happy period of my young life.--Becky Hampton, Brandon, MS

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  12. I have fond memories of dining at the Kapot Tree with my grandparents. They were snowbirds from Ontario and wintered in Tarpon Springs. My grandparents were not rich either so prices must have been reasonable. I remembering waiting in the Red Lounge till our table was ready in the main dining room. My favourite food was hush puppies!! I visited in the late 60's. I was booking a visit to Florida and wondered if the restaurant was in existance!! Ann- Ottawa (now Alberta)

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  13. I really miss this restaurant, as I went there many times for special occasions as a child and it was just so beautiful. I had many blown glass figurines made for me, but don't believe I still have any of them, sadly. I do still have a few of the souvenir glasses from the restaurant though.

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  14. I was a kid who learned what "kitsch" meant via my wonderful Kapok Tree experiences. On one hand you gush & the other you say "oh gawd! too much!" I wish I could have gone when I was drinking age. :-P

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  15. I have one glass from the restaurant and was taken there by my family grandma grandpa mom and dad with brother and sister in the 70's a great place i remember the smell and all the activity wish it was still there.

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  16. That was a magical place and I will never forget the fountains and statues. I still dream of it!! and the beautiful ballrooms

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  17. I have great memories at Kapok Tree while growing up. It was so beautiful. Being a Cuban girl growing up in Miami turning Fifteen was a pic deal. My Fifteen pictures were taken at Kapok Tree. What great memories going every Sunday for family lunch and walking around. It's a shame it closed and my kids were never able to have great memories there.

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  18. Wow I worked here (and Madeira Beach location as well) for 14 years great memories!! Loved the server job and working in the atmosphere with alot of great peeps!! Did outside catering many great memories THANKS!!!

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  19. Loved going there every summer when on vacation with my family and 3of my moms sisters families i remember sitting at the long tables beautiful place i just was telling my husband about the corn fritters they were awesome it was in 70s my sis &i still talk about the statues and how cool this place was

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  20. I worked at The Kapok Tree in Fort Lauderdale. We didn't appreciate it whilst working there. The gardens were truly lovely. The food certainly wasn't memorable. The Kapok Planters Punch was, though. I worked in the bars of The Kapok Tree. We called it a "Tourist Trap" and most of us locals wouldn't be caught dead there. But, behind the scenes at The Kapok Tree, what a blast! We worked hard and partied harder (after closing hours). Caught a manager getting busy with one of our waitresses on a table in The Garden Room. Didn't really appreciate that at all!

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  21. Hey Rick.
    I was going through some of my mother's old slides and I found five of the souvenir slides they used to sell. Do you know anyone that would want them?

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    1. You can donate them to Broward County library photo archives, 954-357-7444 or Davie Historical Museum 954-797-1044.

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  22. My neighbor was the owners daughter after Mr B died stepmother drove restaurant in to the grown sad it was great

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    1. Mrs. B was a waitress at Kapok Tree Clearwater, That's how she met Mr. B and snagged her some money. He was a good man, her not so nice. She walked around the restaurant like royalty. I worked there for 4 years. Many friends and happy thoughts.

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  23. Wow! Thank you all for the memories! One of my favorite treasures from childhood was brought to mind!

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  24. I was married there in October 1986. Our photographer had a very large framed photo of me displayed for a long time. Could anyone tell me if framed photos were stored somewhere. Last I heard my photographer just left it there in display.

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  25. I ate there as a young child in the Zebra room. It was the first time I ate corn fritters. We visited about three times, every time my aunt was visiting from Detroit Michigan.

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  26. Ate at the Ft. Lauderdale one as a kid around 1980. Found a Mint Planters Punch Hurricane Mug at a local Clearwater Thrift Store and Had to have it. Makes a very large Bloody Mary. Great Memories - Sad to see them go. Who knows though - what comes around goes around and there's always a chance someone will reopen one.

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  27. We vacationed on Treasure Island when I was a kid and we went to the Kapok Tree several times and I remember the booth where you signed up for which dinner you wanted but I remember there was lobster on the menu at one time because my Mom ordered it. she also had a Planters Punch. Looking at these pictures I remember eating in the Florida room. Good memories!

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  28. My understanding is Richard Baumgardner was married to a lady named Josephine when the Kapok Tree was opened in 1958. Anyone know what happened to her?

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    1. "Josey" was his first wife. He was married to Ethel when they opened KAPOK.

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    2. Yes, Josy was my great aunt. English born, Ziegfield girl. Lived in Burbank Hollywood, fiends to Bob Hope and Walt Disney etc. A lovely lady.

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  29. I remember going there once as a kid in the 85.... It was so scary lol. I remember getting locked in the bathroom stall and crying cuz i could not get out and some lady calling me chicken little making me laugh till my sister crawled under and she got stuck too!! Turns out lock got jammed!!

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  30. note: the benzplace.com kapok tree website is gone, looks like permanently :(

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  31. Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane. I had been to The Kaypok Tree 3-4 times as a young teen in the mid 70's with my parents when would be visiting Florida. I had only been there in the evenings when everything was lit up and it seemed so grand. Loved that place, it was absolutely beautiful.

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  32. WOW!!! Thanks for sharing. I was there several times in the mid-70s. I was in college at Florida College, and the beauty of this place was reknown. Many of the lovebird students would take their sweetheart to dine under the tree and in the ballroom for that special night, to propose to the love of our lives, and afterwards stroll through the gardens and fountains. And that punch was exquisite. I still have several of the glasses and straws too I think. There were repeated trips to dine. It was a very special place, and is some of the best memories I have of those years. A few years ago, I went and found it was no longer open and was disappointed. I wanted to show my wife because I had spoken of it many times and she had not seen it. I was eager for her to experience the elegance of this place. With the structure and tree still being there, perhaps I may yet show her.

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  33. Ate at the one in Clearwater in 1971 & 1972 with group from Florida College in Temple Terrace. Was great place to eat.

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  34. When our eldest daughter was born in April 1969,family from Miami came up to Largo to see her. We celebrated her birth with a big family dinner at the Kapok Tree. She was just a few days old at the time. BeUtiful, amazing place for her first restaurant visit!! Remember it fondly and visited several times.

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  35. I grew up on Clearwater Beach and remember going to the Kapok Tree for special occasions with my parents. As kids we loved playing around the tree before the restaurant was built since my cousins lived in Bayview.

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  36. I had the double pleasure of dining at two of the Kapok restaurants and working at the one in Madeira Beach as a waiter, a dishwasher, a cook, an expediter, and dessert prep. Both experiences were wonderful.

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  37. Richard was married to Ethel, the mother of his 3 children, when he opened the KAPOK Tree In in 1958. His first wife was an english actress named Josephine (Josey). She was very flamboyant and a fun person to be around.
    He and Ethel supported her financially, the remainder of her life.

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  38. Ahhh, what magical memories... just spent the weekend in the Florida room vending at the Lobster Festival... not quite the same as a kid. It was a vacation highlight. My two sisters & I would put on our best outfits & LOVED waiting to see which room we'd be called for. It was always exotic & FUN. Schlepping my tables & products I sell to make a living today? Ehhh, not so much. Who'da thunk it as a kid, it would be part of my adult destiny?

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  39. Wow, memories! I went to the Clearwater location in probably '68 or '69. Both sets of my grandparents lived in Clearwater. I remember that I couldn't finish my hush puppies and my Dad asked for a doggy bag. They said no, no doggy bags. My Dad gave him his famous death stare, we went home with said hush puppies! lol

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  40. Great memories going to Florida on vacation with my parents and friends of ours when I was 10 years old. In 1971 we visited the Kapok tree and while we were admiring the sites my mother went to get everyone drinks. Unfortunately she got the virgin and rum drinks mixed up and she gave all the kids the giant keep sake glasses of rum and punch. The adults didn't realize what happened till we pretty much finished them. ..best vacation ever!!! But my mother never lived it down.

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  41. I learned of the Kapok Tree Restaurant from a restaurant the Baumgardner family opened in 1926 in Urbana, MD - the Peter Pan Inn. Kapok Tree was mentioned on their menu as a "sister" restaurant, and the concept was much the same. Guests bought tickets for their meals from a limited selection of entrees. Brings back fond memories until other owners turned it into an off-track betting establishment. It too is now closed.

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  42. My father was a Shriner and they had a convention in Jacksonville, FL in the summer of 1970. Dad talked and talked about this restaurant. We were a family of 7 so we did not go to restaurants because it was too expensive. I would have loved to have visited this restaurant as I became an adult but did not really know even where it was located. I am so sorry that I will not get to experience what my Dad got to experience. He died in 1970. I wish someone would bring this grandeur back to Florida.

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  43. My father was the Regional Manager of Kapok in Madeira, Clearwater and, at the time, Savoy across the street on McMullen Booth Rd, later to be called Baumgartner's. I spent countless hours wandering the gift shops, kitchens, employee break rooms and grand halls of all 3 places from 1984-1989. I pocketed sone costyme jewelry from the giftshop for my grade school girlfriend, watched black and white burlesque flipcards for a quartee on a nickelodeon near the ticket booth where Sam Ash is now, and sneaked cokes from the soda gun of the Bordelli Bar, which used to be the red velvet room. My favorite meal when my Mom would come while Dad was working was the clocw studded ham steak, complete with pineapple ring. So many memories.

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  44. Have fond memories of eating at the restaurant and browsing in the gardens adjoining the eatery in the 1950’s at the Kapok Tree in Clearwater, Florida:

    Daniel Campbell McMullen and Solomon Smith ("S. S.") Coachman, hung the first telephone line in the area outside of Clearwater when they connected the log cabin to the nearby Coachman store and Dan McMullen's house; a simple three way telephone system.

    Dan, a leader at the Friendship Methodist Church received kapok tree (bombax ceiba) seeds from a church missionary. Robert D Hoyt, a noted taxidermist grew two small kapok trees from the seeds. One of those trees survived a frost and was planted at the site of the former Kapok Tree Inn Restaurant along McMullen-Booth Road.

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  45. From Texas and in 1967 went to Tampa to visit my Aunt and her husband before being shipped out. With my wife we were treated to a visit to the Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater. Never before or since have I ever been impressed with a place to dine as I was then. I have been in a few good restaurants, but never anything like that. It was not just the food but the entire atmosphere that made it special.

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  46. Vacationing as a kid in Treasure Island - we always went to the Kapok - loved the atmosphere and the hush puppies - live nearby now and really wish it was still there

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  47. I loved those corn fritters as a child! My parents would take me to The Kapock Tree on our summer vacation in the 70's. I thought it was so beautiful at night with all the lights twinkling up in the tree.

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  48. I hope all is well here .. Very happy family memories from years gone by. May God spare this old and famous restaurant from any hurricane damage. GOD BLESS. Hope to visit again before this year is over.Sending all good wishes from New York.

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  49. Rick, sincere thanks for referencing my (now defunct) website about the Kapok Tree Inn. For anyone interested, much of the site is still available via Web Archive's Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20141219024137/http://benzplace.com/kapok/index.html
    Kind regards,
    Ben Mancine

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  50. I used to go there with my parents when I was a little girl in the 1960's and 1970's. I was sad to hear it is gone now. The photos don't do it justice. It was very elegant in an over the top, opulence t sort of way. The best part for me was walking around the gardens at night. They used spotlights, strategically placed, to backlight and up light (if that's a thing) the gardens and palms. It was quite besutiful and exotic on a hot, dark Florida night.

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  51. First time I drank a full planters punch! My dad was on his second one when I asked for the rolls to be passed. He picked one out of the basket and threw it at me, which I caught much to the horror of my proper Aunt! We were all pretty tipsy at that point. It was last vacation as a whole family. My aunt passed away a few weeks afte this trip. My parents did retire in Florida and I came with. We have been residents since 1980❤️

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  52. I remember my grandmother visiting us in Tampa. She took us to dinner at the Kapok Tree Inn several times. Excellent food and the place was beautiful. Great memories of a time long forgotten.

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  53. I grew up in Winter Haven and a drive to Clearwater took an hour but Kapok Tree restaurant was a big date night. I loved the fried shrimp and corn fritters. I found the recipe and made the fritters for dinner tonight for my grandkids. A beautiful place with good memories.

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  54. kapok tree inn, not kapok tree restaurant. amazing that even former employees use the misnomer....are you guys sure you worked there??

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  55. i used to work at the kapok tree , will never forget

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  56. My mom worked here as a waitress in the late 60s early 70s. It has such fond memories for me as a tiny girl. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  57. I grew up 1 block from there in the 50's and 60's. We used to get up early in the morning and go up to the tree and collect all the blossoms and flowers, take them home and dip them in melted paraffin wax. Later around supper time we took them back up there and sold them for 50 cents or a dollar for the perfect ones. That was big money then.

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  58. wow.. what a waste to have not kept this typ of place around...

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  59. I moved to South Florida in 1977 from Birmingham, Alabama to open a chain of steak houses. A couple I met and befriended me took me there for dinner. I'd never seen anything like it and was amazed. I loved it. Before I knew it, it was gone and I was quite upset. I did go there several times after closing to take photographs and remember a much kinder time in my life. Happpy that some of the grounds have been restored.

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  60. I married my husband in St Mary Cathedral in Miami on Oct. 29th 1988 and our wedding reception was held in the fully tiled and very colorful banquet room. We have the most amazing photos taken on the grounds. Several that have fooled the the viewers into thinking they were staged on a studio set. I’m heartbroken that I didn’t have more pictures taken while we were there. I never imagined such a beautiful venue wouldn’t be there forever. The world is a little less interesting without this feature in it. Forever in my heart.

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  61. I remember this place, went there once as a kid. I was 17, and my mom decided that I would "sorta" be my maiden aunt's "date". Oh, well, Now I'm 72 and survived the experience, so the food must have been pretty good.

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  62. Remember going to the Kapok Tree and was very disappointed to learn it was demolished. How shortsighted.

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  63. In 1987 my husband (Robert) and I (Ronda) eat the restaurant on our honeymoon. Love it so much eat there 2 nights later. I was wondering if it the restaurant was still there. Love the room very gorgeous.

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  64. We went to Indian Rocks Beach every Christmas from Indiana. As a 10 to 15 year old this place was a true fantasy land. Now age 65 I will be going back soon to walk through the grounds. I know it will be sad but it will be great seeing it all again and going down memory lane.

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  65. I ate here in 1971! They had a tall glass you could keep as a souvenir if you ordered a certain drink. The place was amazing!

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  66. In the 1960's our large family lived in Tampa, and the money was tight. When company visited from up north, The Kapok Tree was nearly always the go-to place. As a pre-teen artist, I drew for hours from pictures of Michelangelo's statues, but to actually see classical art in person seemed like an impossibility. Although the dinners were delicious, The Kapok Tree was much more than a place to eat! Between Lowry Park's Fantasyland, and The Kapok Tree, I thank my lucky stars to have has such imaginative environments to grow up in. I was mesmerized by the statues and fantasy figures, the fountains and the decor. Over the top, maybe, but for a young artist it was inspiring beyond belief, walking in those cool misty gardens. As an adult, my husband and son moved to Safety Harbor, and it was beyond sad to see the change. Because so much of the structures are cement, maybe it will be possible one day to return it to it's former glory- kitsch intact!

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