Wax Museum at Fishermans Wharf

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Coordinates: 37°48′29.79″N122°24′53.24″W / 37.8082750°N 122.4147889°W / 37.8082750; -122.4147889

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The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, USA, had over 270 wax figures. [1] Originator Thomas Fong opened the museum in 1963 after seeing the wax figures at the Seattle World's Fair and it has been run by the Fong Family since. It has attracted over 400,000 visitors a year. [2]

Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco Neighborhood of San Francisco in City and County of San Francisco, California, United States

Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street. The F Market streetcar runs through the area, the Powell-Hyde cable car lines runs to Aquatic Park, at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf, and the Powell-Mason cable car line runs a few blocks away.

After 50 years at the center of Fisherman’s Wharf, a new chapter has begun for San Francisco’s famed Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf (www.waxmuseum.com) guaranteeing the continuation of a Wax Museum attraction as part of the City’s tourist landscape. Merlin Entertainments, the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, (second only to Disney), signed a multi year real estate transaction with the Wax Museum Entertainment Complex Building to invest $35 million to open both the world famous Madame Tussauds Wax Attraction and San Francisco Dungeon at Fisherman’s Wharf. Madame Tussauds San Francisco opened for business on June 26, 2014 and features all new wax figures created by Madame Tussauds.

A tourist landscape can be described as constructed through a large number of symbolic and material transformations of an original physical and/or socioeconomic landscape in order to serve the interests of tourists and the tourist industry.

San Francisco Dungeon

The San Francisco Dungeon is a tourist attraction which recreates historical events using 360° sets, special effects, and live actors. Visitors walk through the Dungeon, and are guided through each show by professional actors. The attraction also contains a dark boat ride.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco is a wax museum located in Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco in California. The attraction opened on June 26, 2014 and became the 17th Madame Tussauds museum to open worldwide. The attraction features wax figures of famous figures from movies, music, politics, popular culture and sport. It also celebrates “The Spirit of San Francisco” with wax figures of local artists, musicians and activists from the city's past.

The last day of business for The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf was on August 15, 2013.


Thomas L. Fong was born in Canton Province, China on January 4, 1913 and grew up in a small village. He emigrated to San Francisco, aged 17, when a family friend who was there offered to sponsor a member of the family. By 1938 he was running a jewelry store, and developing real estate projects. [3]

In the early 1960s Fong bought a run-down grain mill called Smith Anderson Mill, near Fisherman’s Wharf and decided to open the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. The attraction opened on May 12, 1963. With the success of their first museum, the family purchased Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, California on April 1, 1985 and operated it until it closed on October 31, 2005. [4]

Movieland Wax Museum, with over 300 wax figures in 150 sets, was the largest wax museum in the United States. Located in Buena Park, California, it was for decades one of the most popular wax museums in the United States. Allen Parkinson founded the museum on May 4, 1962, but sold it to the Six Flags Corporation in 1970. It was located north of Knott's Berry Farm on Beach Boulevard.

Buena Park, California City in California, United States

Buena Park is a city in northwestern Orange County, California, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area about 12 miles (20 km) northwest of downtown Santa Ana, the county seat. As of Census 2010 its population was 80,530. It is the location of several tourist attractions, including Knott's Berry Farm. It is located about 24 miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles and is within the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

By 1989, Tommy, as he was known at Fisherman's Wharf, decided to leave the Management and Operations of the Wax Museum and other family businesses to his son, Ron Fong and his grandson, Rodney Fong. Tommy died on November 26, 2000, aged 87. [3]

New building

The old Wax Museum Entertainment Complex Building was demolished in 1998, having had over 10 million visitors since it opened, including almost half a million in the year before it closed. [5] It reopened two years later in a new 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) four-story building, designed by MBH Architects. Inspired by French Victorian public architecture, it cost $18m and includes retail space and a restaurant. The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf officially reopened on July 13, 2000 in the basement of the new building and lies nine feet below the bay level. [6] According to Rodney Fong, in 2008 it was attracting 250,000 visitors a year of whom around 10% were from abroad. [1]


The museum displayed a few figures of current interest in the lobby, which was open to the street. [1] The bodies of the wax statues were made of wood, fiberglass, papier-mâché and beeswax. The process to make each figure and prepare it for display took approximately two or three months. Many of the sculptures were created by Gem's Wax Figures in London. A few were crafted by Ron Fong, others by Los Angeles wax sculptor Henry Alvarez, and the museum's resident sculptor, Kahn Gasimov who was hired away from London's Madame Tussauds. [7]

The underground exhibits contained more than 270 figures and scenes, ranging from The Last Supper and Wizard of Oz to King Tut and the Chamber of Horrors which included Anton LaVey, the late San Francisco satanist whose wax figure attended his funeral. There were famous sports-people and important historical figures including a display of dictators featuring Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Napoleon Bonaparte and Hideki Tōjō. A display of World War II generals featured an authentic World War II Willys jeep and the sound of explosions and machine-gun fire. A scientists' section included Galileo, Albert Einstein and Bill Gates. Other displays included famous composers, artists and current celebrities.

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  1. 1 2 3 Yollin, Patricia (April 18, 2008). "Bonds wheeled downstairs in S.F. Wax Museum". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  2. Armstrong, David (October 27, 1998). "Recasting a wax museum". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  3. 1 2 Torassa, Ulysses (November 26, 2000). "Thomas Fong". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  4. McKibben, Dave (October 23, 2005). "Wax museum to seal doors forever". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  5. Wildermuth, John (May 18, 1999). "Wharf's Changing Faces". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  6. Hamlin, Jesse (July 30, 2000). "Wax Figures Move Into A New Home". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  7. Hamlin, Jesse (December 9, 1999). "Minding His Beeswax". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2011.