Cliff House and the Sutro Baths

Posted in personal, travel at 10:52 pm by danvk

First off, apologies for the Craig- and Ryan-like pace of updates to danvk.org.

On Sunday, Ryan and I rode out to the far Western edge of San Francisco, just north of Ocean Beach. While it’s only six miles from my apartment, this felt like a much longer trip. There are no freeways in this part of the city, so our route was stop and go through neighborhood after neighborhood: Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Pac Heights, Laurel Heights, Inner Richmond and Outer Richmond.

This is the land of Adolph Sutro, a former mayor of San Francisco who I learned about from this Sparkletack episode. Sutro’s two claims to fame in this area are:

The second Cliff House, which lasted from 1896-1907. This must have been especially dramatic back then, when this area was completely uninhabited. Nowadays we’re on the third Cliff House, a swanky restaurant with spectacular views. I’d love to eat there someday, but that degree of swankiness requires a special occasion.

The remains of the Sutro baths, which Sutro once hoped would be his great legacy. It’s a shame that these public baths no longer exist. I can only imagine how nice it would be to relax here with a magnificent view of the ocean and feel the sea breeze coming in. The rocks you can see peeking out of the sea were covered in mussels, which made the waves slowly drain off them, rather than crashing. It was a sight to behold.

Here’s what the baths used to look like. I believe you can see the lack of a Cliff House in the background.

I was disappointed to find out that the baths were enclosed. While it is a spectacular building, I liked the idea of catching the sea breeze from the baths. I also find it amazing how very old these ruins look, even though the building only burned down in 1966.


  1. Richard Miller (Sparkletack) said,

    May 7, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Hey, does the new Cliff House make you nostalgic for the old one?

    (great shot of the baths, btw … )

  2. Molly said,

    May 7, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    All my life I’ve wanted to visit that section of the Presidio/ Outer Richmond as it used to be. The Sutro Bath House, the amusement park that was in the very Outer Richmond when my mom was a kid… (the only thing left is the windmills across the street from Ocean Beach, just down the hill from the Cliff House).

    For some reason, that section of the city, more than any other, makes me really reminiscent for the past of San Francisco. Maybe because it’s the stretch that we always drove through to get to Menlo Park when I was little, but also maybe because there are so many remnants there that haven’t been covered up yet in the way so much of the city’s past has been.