Kapok Tree Elegance

The Kapok Tree Inn of Clearwater, Florida was a wonderful restaurant and banquet hall elaborately decorated with lush gardens inside and out including statues and fountains beautiful enough for a European palace.
kapoktreeinterior

kapoktreefountains
Here we see some of the gardens outside in 1977.

The name Kapok Tree Inn came from the huge Kapok tree that grew right next to the original restaurant that was founded by a New York couple in the late 1950's by the name of Baumgardner. The Restaurant grew into the opulent Inn you see here.

momcarolkapoktree
This photo of the Kapok tree was taken in 1965, before the building expanded and before a fence was erected to protect the tree. Kapok trees produce a fiber similar to cotton that was used- because of it's buoyancy- for flotation devices such as life vests for boaters.

The tree still stands today (923 N McMullen Booth Rd) and can be seen from a mile or more, but the Kapok Tree Inn is no more. Mrs. Baumgardner sold her interests in the company in the 1980's and the Inn became a large music store with one of the old gardens still open to the public, but not kept up the way it once was. The pianos and other instruments are arranged in the former banquet rooms and the hallways are lined with the dry fountains of yesteryear. It was truly a disappointment when I last visited in 2000. Last I heard it the name changed to Sam Ash Music.

Does anyone still have any glassware from the Kapok Tree Inn?

16 comments:

Anne said...

I still have two Kapok Tree glasses from when I went to the restaurant with my parents back in the 80s. It was so beuatiful there.

lapstrake said...

Funny thing about the glasses... I too have an old glass from the 70's, but in 2000, I visited the music store that bought the building (I think it was Thourogoods) and they had a coupon in their advertisement for 4 free Kapok Tree glasses if you stopped in. So I picked up a set of them - and they were brand new, still in the box. They must have had thousands of glasses in the storage rooms. I'll see if I can take a photo of them.

Anonymous said...

The Kapok Tree was purchased out of a bankruptcy. Currently, 2006, it is a music store, where the gifts shops where so long ago. The "Restaurant" part of the Kapok Tree is still used today for special events, such as weddings, and corporate events. Because the building is quite old, it is constantly going through refurbishing. The associate who currently runs the operations of the special events planning has really brought the place back to life. So though the Kapok Tree is not the "Oppulent Restaurant of the 60's & 70"s" it still has the same beauty it had all those years ago. The gardens are still open to the public, and are just as amazing as they were when the Baumgardners owned them

lapstrake said...

That's good to hear. On my last visit in 2000 or so, the gardens were still open, but they were really not pretty, the plants were all wilted, the walkways were littered with old plant material and it lacked the care and attention it used to have.
I'll stop by again this year to see how things look. I hope it's a beautiful as you say - the situation would be similar to Sunken Gardens in St. Pete, it was in poor condition until someone (the city) took it over and now it's beautiful once again.
Thanks for the info!

Amy said...

I remember asking my parents to take me to the Kapok Tree for several birthdays as a child. I remember having several glasses in the cabinets but I don't think my Mom kept them.

I haven't been back in years and have since moved out of state but I'm glad to know that they've kept the gardens up. I'll definitely be taking my kids there the next time we visit FL.

lapstrake said...

I'm going to try to stop by the Kapok Tree next week when I visit Clearwater. I'll take some photos and post them here in a couple of weeks!

Anonymous said...

I still have a glass from the Kapok Tree Inn as well as one from the Peter Pan Inn in Maryland.

Anonymous said...

My Mom still has them from when we went in the mid 70's. It was such an awsome place!

Anonymous said...

I have two from the 70s. They have the ad for Kapok Tree Inn on one side and Peter Pan Inn on the other. They were from one of our many trips there. As a child, we would go for all family events as well as take out-of-state relatives while they were visiting.

Anonymous said...

eBay has a kapok tree glass from 1979 listed at least until March 1

Andria said...

I still have 2 of the Planter's Punch glasses and the original recipe from the box

Beverly said...

I have three glasses from the Kapok Tree...Years 1978, 1979 & 1980. Beverly

dbcaribislander said...

Andrea: Please share the Planter's Punch recipe with me. I have misplaced mine. I drank many a punch at the Peter Pan Inn in Urbana Maryland, but, sadly, never at the Kapok Tree Inn. Thank you.
dbcaribislander@gmail.com

Shelly said...

I have several glassware pieces from Kapok. Also, the Clearwater gardens are still there, owned by Kapok Special Events company. Just visited and was allowed to look around and photograph.
I have a collection of Kapok albums here:
http://public.fotki.com/sweetums1930/

Were you ever at the restaurant in Daytona?
525 Fentress Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL

Roxy said...

My parents just showed up last night at my place with 4 pristine beer glasses that they got in 1977. I was 3 months old. They couldn't say enough about the food and the restaurant!

Tom Gill said...

Awesome! As a kid, that place was one of the wonders of the world! Fountains everywhere, trees and gardens inside a restaurant - I can still remember what it was like to visit for the first time.