The Tonga Room — Historical or Hysterical?

The term “only in San Francisco” is overused. That's a given. But, honestly, in how many cities would one open the paper to read about a brewing preservation battle between developers and tiki bar enthusiastswith the city sympathetic to the tiki people?

To most folks, the Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room on Nob Hill is more hysterical than historical. It's “kitschy” in the same way that Liberace was “flamboyant.” But not to the city's planning department. It deemed the bar best known for its floating bandstand and indoor rain a “historical resource” which “represents a rare remaining example of a distinct phase of post-World War II popular culture, and includes a substantial number of distinctive characteristics.”

I blame grad school for sentences like that.

It does bring up an interesting point, however. How many other vestiges of post-World War II popular culture have come and gone in this city without protests being launched on Facebook? We asked our favorite living historical resource: 84-year-old San Franciscan John Gaul.

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