Radisson Hotel Pittsburgh

Heart shaped Jacuzzi Hotel Pittsburgh

LAKEVILLE, Pa.—For many travelers, a romantic hotel stay might mean chocolate-covered strawberries from room service or rose petals sprinkled on the bed. And then there are those who hold out for the heart-shaped bathtub.

Pioneered in the Poconos region of northern Pennsylvania, the heart-shaped tub was the apex of honeymoon hotel style in the 1970s and 1980s. The tubs fell out of favor in the 1990s as the popularity of minimalist boutique hotels boomed and a new generation of vacationers deemed the tubs tacky.

Today, the tubs live on in a handful of resorts around the country. And those hoteliers say they are as popular as ever.

The Gables Inn Bed & Breakfast in Hot Springs, Ark., has one cream and mauve heart-shaped tub, and its owners wish they had more. "If we were building an inn from scratch we would definitely put a heart-shaped Jacuzzi in every room, " says Judy Peters, who opened the four-room inn with her husband in 1996. The competition "may look at it like it's hokey, but not realize what a niche it is." The rooms with the tubs are booked months before other rooms, she says.

As far as anyone can tell, Morris B. Wilkins introduced the heart shaped tub to vacationers. An 85-year-old with wispy gray hair who now lives in a high-rise apartment building in Las Vegas, he designed the tub in the mid-1960s to draw honeymooners to Cove Haven Resort, a Poconos newlyweds-only destination he used to own. Because no one made the tubs commercially, he poured concrete into the shape of a heart, tiled it in red, and put mirrors on the surrounding walls, he says.

In 1971, Life magazine featured a photo of a couple soaking in one—risque areas covered with bubble bath. Suddenly, "we had more reservations than we knew what to do with, " says Mr. Wilkins. Cove Haven worked to install more of the tubs and the design quickly found its way into other resorts throughout the Poconos and other vacation destinations.

By the 1980s hotels and resorts all over the world could buy a mass-produced version of the tub in fiber glass or acrylic.

Now, only a handful of producers make the tubs in the U.S. Each of those companies sells between five and 20 a year, they say, and most end up in hotels, though some go to private homes. "We don't sell as many as we used to, but we still get requests for them, " says Bonnie Reed, assistant to the owner of Bath-Tec Inc., an Ennis, Texas, based bathroom-fixture company that started making the tubs in 1985. Most buyers choose red tubs, she says.

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