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Wax museum at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf to close

August 15, 2013|By Carla Rivera
  • Curtis Huber, left, and Eric Valencia load the wax figure of Barry Bonds into an elevator at the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The museum is closing its doors Thursday after more than 50 years.
Curtis Huber, left, and Eric Valencia load the wax figure of Barry Bonds… (Paul Chinn / Associated…)

San Francisco's wax museum, whose Chamber of Horrors, King Tut and Last Supper exhibits attracted millions of visitors to Fisherman’s Wharf, is closing its doors Thursday after more than 50 years.

The family-run museum was opened in a converted grain warehouse in 1963 by Thomas Fong, who had been inspired by the wax figures he saw while visiting the Seattle World’s Fair, according to the museum.

It started out with 75 life-sized wax figures and eventually grew to four floors, with more than 200 iconic figures including Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana and Oprah Winfrey.

In 1998, the old warehouse was torn down to make way for the current 100,000-square-foot building.

Each of the figures is sculpted by hand at a cost of $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the complexity of the subject. Over the years, among the most popular exhibits, according to the museum, is the Gallery of Stars, with old-school celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe and more contemporary figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio.

More than 12 million visitors have passed through the doors, according to officials. The waxy forms will not be gone for long.

Plans are underway to open a Madame Tussauds San Francisco wax attraction, with a scheduled opening in summer 2014. The new complex will include the San Francisco Dungeon, described as a “thrill-filled journey through the dark parts of San Francisco’s past” with live actors and special effects.

“It’s hard not to wax nostalgic about our half-century mark,” museum president Rodney Fong, who represents the third generation of Fong family ownership, said in a statement. “Without exaggeration, the Fong family and the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf helped create the tourist industry along our waterfront. Now, the wax mold is being passed to a new generation.”

Details have not been finalized, but plans are to sell the museum's wax figures as a collection, Fong told the San Francisco Chronicle.


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