Designed by MGM set designer Mel Melvin in a South Pacific/nautical theme, the Tonga Room opened in 1945. The 1920's swimming pool became a water-filled lagoon with a small ship in the middle which doubled as a stage for band and every thirty minutes a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool.
In early 2009, the Fairmont announced plans to add a new tower of condominiums, and this plan will require the removal and/or destruction of the historic Tonga Room. This has prompted a fight against the removal of this unique San Francisco landmark.
Back in May the Tonga Room was deemed historic by the California Historic Resources Commission, which means all parts of the room, if moved, must be salvaged, reused or stored. However you would need to question whether the new location for the proposed New Tonga Room would have the same appeal or historical value. At the end of October following a three-hour-long discussion at the San Francisco Planning Commission, where residents voiced their opinions about the demolition of a 23-story hotel tower and replacing it with a 26-story residential tower, the environmental review of the project did not garner the necessary four votes for adoption. It failed 3-2. Therefore the Tonga Room is safe until at least January 2011.
Whilst it could be argued that the Tonga Room is just one of many Tiki Bars that once flourished, then lost some appeal and whom are now enjoying something of a renaissance there is a sense in the community that action must be taken to prevent the further erosion of Tiki culture. Much has been lost already ... now is time to take a stand. Show how much you support and value your local Tiki Bar wherever you live and counter the views of SF Weekly's Chris Roberts in the way we know how. Here at Mia Huna Moku we hope that the Tiki gods are smiling and that one day we might get to visit the Tonga Room in its current location.
The Tonga Room on Critiki.
Save the Tonga Room Facebook Group.
Save the Tonga Room Blog.