The Rise and Fall of the Heart-Shaped Hot Tub

The Rise and Fall of the Heart-Shaped Hot Tub

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Nancy Mitchell
Feb 14, 2016
Life archives, via the Wall Street Journal
(Image credit: Life Magazine)

It's Valentine's Day, which means that the two-lobed shape that we somehow recognize as representing a human heart is suddenly everywhere. There are heart-shaped candies, cards, chocolates, even heart-shaped pizzas. And many years ago, one man had the idea of building a heart-shaped hot tub... and a movement was born.

The heart-shaped hot tub was born in 1968, when Morris Wilkins, owner of the Cove Haven Hotel in Pennsylvania's Poconos mountains, had the idea to create a romantic bathtub to lure vacationers searching for a romantic getaway. And what's more romantic than a heart? Wilkins created his first tubs by pouring concrete into the shape of a heart, and then covering the tub with red tiles.

Since the 60s and 70s were the era of free love and unrestrained design, the idea caught on quickly, and soon spread to other hotels in the area. A 1971 Life magazine spread featured a sudsy couple embracing in one of the tubs. They also called the design “a surfeit of affluent vulgarity,” but the pictures spoke for themselves, and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the action. Manufacturers started making fiberglass shells in a heart shape, and soon the tubs were a honeymoon staple.

An abandoned room at the Penn Hills Resort, spotted on Roadtrippers
(Image credit: Roadtrippers)

The fortunes of the heart shaped hot tub largely paralleled those of the Poconos resorts that made them famous — new and glamorous in the 60s and 70s, tacky and dated 20 years later. The Poconos billed itself as an exciting, romantic getaway for average Americans, but as those sorts of travelers began abandoning Pennsylvania for cruises and for Las Vegas, many Poconos resorts closed, and many of the ones that didn't hastened to rebrand themselves as more family-friendly. The heart-shaped tubs, by then a dated reminder of past excesses, didn't make the cut.

A champagne hot tub room at the Pocono Palace
(Image credit: Pocono Palace)

But some resorts, including the tub's birthplace, the Cove Haven, refused to abandon them. Morris Wilkins, the tub's creator, took things even further with a second tub he designed in the shape of a seven foot tall champagne glass.

A suite at the Cove Haven Resort, via Messy Nessy Chic.
(Image credit: Messy Nessy Chic)

Those wishing to indulge in a little 70s kitsch can book one of the 225 suites at the Cove Haven, which all come equipped with the signature heart shaped tubs. Or, if you're searching for a truly romantic experience, you can splurge for the four-story Champagne Tower suite, which, in addition to the giant champagne glass hot tub, also features a private heart-shaped pool. The rooms aren't cheap — they start at a few hundred dollars a night — but maybe for you that's a small price to pay to bathe in a piece of design history.

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