San Francisco's Newest Landmark: A Tiki Bar?

One man fights for Tonga Room to be designated a landmark

By Sajid Farooq
|  Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009  |  Updated 6:12 AM PDT
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San Francisco's Newest Landmark: A Tiki Bar?

Sparkleneely on Flickr

The Tonga Room needs savings and fans of the Polynesian inspired bar are not afraid to wear their emotions on their backs.

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The Golden Gate Bridge, the Ferry building and now the Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room. The Polynesian inspired bar could join the ranks of San Francisco landmarks if one "architectural expert" has his way.

The adorable San Francisco bar has been facing the ax since the owner of the Fairmount, where the bar resides, drew up plans to tear down and rebuild part of the hotel as condos.

Now one man is trying to save the bar by designating it a landmark for being "the best example of the Polynesian-Pop style ever built in San Francisco,"  the San Francisco Chronicle's John King reports.

The bar would not be the first eatery to be designated as a landmark in San Francisco. The Beach Chalet was given the honor in 1925 and Jack's Restaurant on Sacramento Street received the same recognition in 1907. In fact the Fairmount Hotel itself is a designated landmark.

But King understandably questions the historical nature of the bar "where rain falls every 20 minutes."

"My preservation ethos gears me toward pop kitsch and industrial vernacular," Chris VerPlanck, who is pushing for the Tonga Room to be recognized, told King. "Artifacts left behind are a good marker for social history."

The Tonga Room was born in 1945 when the hotel converted its indoor swimming pool into a bar. But it wasn't until 1967 that the Tonga Room got its full Polynesian look, according to King.

A historic designation would prevent anyone from tearing down the bar. Still, the Fairmont says nothing has been decided about the future of the Tonga Room despite published reports.

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