Apr 26, 2018
Jeanette Guire

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Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf The spirit and energy of San Francisco is manifested in the history of one of its most popular landmarks - The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. Bedecked by colorful waving flags and surrounded by a complex of gifts shops and entertainment sites, the museum welcomes guests to one of the world's most visited spots. Three generations of the Fong family have kept the Wax Museum a vital and changing San Francisco attraction. Thomas Fong opened the Wax Museum in 1963, from a renovated chicken feed warehouse which was across the street from a handful of shops and restaurants which then comprised Fisherman's Wharf. With remarkable vision, Thomas Fong saw the potential of his site to lure San Franciscans and visitors alike to the Fisherman's Wharf area and to see it as a place to spend the day, rather than just passing through for lunch. Inspired by the wax figures at the Seattle World's Fair, he decided to open a Wax Museum. The museum started with 150 life-sized figures in front of black curtains on the first floor and opened as the largest wax museum in North America. Now the exhibits span four floors with over 200 figures in elaborately staged scenes, with costumes, props and lighting, carefully constructed to authenticate people at the peak of their fame. Many scenes were designed and sculpted by Thomas Fong's son Ronald, who co-directed the family business in partnership with his father from its inception. In the late 1960's, Ron and his father created a second floor for the Hall of Religions, which depicts six of the world's greatest faiths. The most popular exhibit continues to be a recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. The museum added a subterranean Chamber of Horrors and in the late '70's, the Gallery of Stars. The museum debuted a replication of King Tutankamen's tomb soon after, which occupies the top floor of the museum and opened when the National Touring exhibit from Cairo arrived in San Francisco. Over the years, a collection of gift shops and new attractions adjoining the museum were added. This group of Fong operations was known as the Wax Museum Entertainment Complex and at one time included four attractions, four gifts shops and an arcade, as well as a Galleria of rental shops, which were leased to independent specialty retailers. In addition to providing entertainment for San Francisco and its visitors, the Wax Museum supports many of the city's non-profit organizations. Their belief in the importance of giving back to the community inspired the Fong family to establish the Thomas and Eva Fong Foundation, which primarily supports local charities and causes that do not receive national assistance. One favorite charity is On Lok, an organization dedicated to helping Chinese American senior citizens. Rodney Fong, representing the third generation of the Fong family, now runs most of the day to day operations of the family business. Like his father and grandfather, Rodney has the energy and vision to keep the museum a favorite of San Franciscans and visitors. In September 1998, the historic 100 year old San Francisco landmark that was The Wax Museum Entertainment Complex for 35 years, was torn down to make way for a $15 million, 100,000 square foot showplace. As one of the world's largest wax museums, the fully restored San Francisco attraction continues to show all aspects of life from the ignoble Chamber of Horrors to the inspiring Hall of Religion, including the historic Library of U.S. Presidents, the spectacular Recreation of King Tut's Tomb and the unique Palace of Living Art, where the world's most famous masters, and their masterpieces come to life through the magic of wax artistry. Among both foreign and domestic visitors, the most popular part of the wax museum tour is The Gallery of Stars. Artisans are busy continually producing a galaxy of brand new stars, such as Leonardo Di Capiro and Will Smith, who will join such classics as Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne.
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 Jan 28, 2009  San Francisco California N/A   
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