Remembering the legendary Kapok Tree Inn, Florida’s most insane restaurant

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During it's heyday, from the 60s through the 80s, the Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater was one of the most over-the-top restaurants in the country. Named after a kapok tree sapling that was brought over from India, in the 1870s, the land was later purchased Richard B. Baumgardner, who decided to transform the grove into an ambitious destination restaurant, which opened in 1958. Eventually there were a few different locations, but the Clearwater one was by far the most extravagant of them all, and featured a world-renown garden, Renaissance-inspired architecture, impressive waterfalls, beautiful chandeliers, and twelve different themed dining rooms. In 1988, the Chicago Sun-Times called the Clearwater Kapok Tree Inn the number 15 restaurant in the country, with sales of $10 million. Despite being a massive success, the Kapok Tree Inn closed in 1991, but elements of it have been preserved and can still be seen at the Sam Ash Music Store, and the Kapok Special Events Center & Gardens, which now occupy the space.

All photos via Florida State Archives