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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Phoenix’s Polynesian Palace

Geography has shifted dramatically in the past half-century. Today, Tahiti lies roughly 4,300 miles southwest of Phoenix. But back in the Swinging 1960s, an overnight visit to the South Pacific island nation could be had just a few miles east of downtown.

The Tahiti Inn opened at 2900 East Van Buren Street in 1959. Contractor R.L. Branaman constructed the motel, which offered "the finest of everything for its guests," according to the Arizona Republic. The 73-room motel opened a few months after Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, which was near peak infatuation with all things South Seas in the U.S. The Tahiti joined other misplaced Tiki-themed motels on Van Buren, including Cocanut [sic] Grove, Samoan Village, Aloha Hotel, and the Tropics. The grandest Polynesian accommodations on the self-described “Funset Strip,” the Kon Tiki Hotel, opened in 1962, capping the trend.

The Tahiti ditched its tropical theme to become the Airport Travelodge in 1977. The motel is currently a Days Inn by WyndhamAirport. All vestiges of its exotic locale have long ago been swept away by imaginary trade winds.

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