Save the Tonga!

The Tonga in its Mid century heyday (above)

The Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel has been a landmark of San Francisco since 1945 and is one of the most authentic examples of faux Polynesian design in the country. My first memory of the Tonga is of my parents taking me there when I was 10 years old. We went to the symphony and what a treat to have a bite at the Tonga after! With its fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas, to a live band floating on a pool (thunderstorms included), the Tonga Room is the epitome of kitsch at its finest!

menu photo from

After years of service, The Tonga may be demolished to make way for condominiums. The Fairmont’s owners have submitted plans for a condo conversion in an adjacent tower and rumor has it that the Tonga won't survive. This is really sad as it's happening all over. Take the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Certainly not the same since the condo conversion.

"A gleaming dance floor provides space for guests to dance; little do they realize that it was originally the deck of the S.S. Forrester, one of the last of the tall ships that plied the route between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands."

I am so saddened by the possibility of losing this gem! The Tonga Room deserves to be designated a protected historic site, like other treasured buildings. These special buildings and sites give San Francisco its historical and cultural value that draws visitors from around the world and makes the city an amazing place to live. So, from a San Franciscan that wants to "Save the Tonga", please visit their website for updates and sign the petition here.

Thank you!!


Kirsten Steen said…
Thanks for this post! I noticed the revolving restaurant downtown is now gone as well. So sad! Will be signing this petition.
Thanks so much Kirsten! Hopefully we can save it!
lisa golightly said…
I went there for my Jr Prom ... and you are right, the Tonga should be recognized as an important SF time capsule and thus preserved. Thank you so much Lynn for this posting. I will sign the petition right away.
Lisa, how funny. We used to go there after proms. So fancy, right?

Leif and I just happened to be there last week (hadn't been there in years) and our waitress had worked there over 25 years! That place is a classic.

thanks for signing the petition!!
irenie said…
Unknown said…
Oh my goodness! I have never heard of this gem before but I am so saddened by the thought of losing such an amazing place. It is after all part of our history. I am on my way to sign the petition and look more into this place, it sounds dreamy! I love the thought of it. I often wonder what it would have been like to dine at the Brown Derby, of dance at the Coconut Grove. This is just like that but it still exists! Thank you for this fantastic post!
Lisa & Alfie said…
Wait a minute, I thought they weren't going to touch the Tonga! I got an update from someone who works there about a month ago. Boy, how fast these real estate and development machines work. Boo! I am going right over to sign.
I didn't go to the Tonga until I moved to SF and I have great photos taken there by the little old lady with the cat eye glasses who used to go from club to club with her polaroid. Memories.
Lisa & Alfie
vicki archer said…
What a great post - fingers crossed. Happy Easter and have a wonderful weekend, xv.

Popular Posts