The Cliff House and Sutro Baths are one awesome place in the world

The Cliff House and Sutro Baths are one awesome place in the world
The Cliff House at Seals Beach in San Francisco, CA circa 1902

Cliff House & Sutro Baths San Francisco, CA

A historic site in The City is The Cliff House & Sutro Baths San Francisco. The Cliff House & Sutro Baths San Francisco has long been a destination for people looking for good food with a view of the Pacific Ocean and Seal’s Rock. People have asked me about my logo for my blog and Facebook business pages.   It’s a picture of The Cliff House, circa 1902.  I can drive to The Cliff House from Redwood City in about 45 minutes The Cliff House is just 30 miles away and sit on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The menu on the back page of the menu at the Bistro Restaurant where you can enjoy a great meal while looking out over the Pacific Ocean and Ocean Beach to the South and Sutro Baths to the North.

Who built The Cliff House and Sutro Baths


The Cliff House and Sutro Baths are one awesome place in the world
The Cliff House in San Francisco, CA 1906

The first Cliff House built by real estate developer Charles Butler in 1863 and was a frame and clapboard edifice extremely popular with the well-heeled who could afford the toll roads, horses and menu prices.  It  expanded in 1868.  By the early 1880’s, transportation had improved so “ordinary” folks could make the trip and the Cliff House abandoned by high society.  Captain Junius Foster, who ran the operation for Butler, then turned to a more “sporting” clientage. In 1881, Adolph Sutro bought the Cliff House and 1,000 surrounding acres, moved into the cottage on the promontory and hired James Wilkins to make it a “respectable resort”. 

The Cliff House & Sutro Baths San Francisco Adolph Sutro was born in Aachen, Germany (formerly Aix-la-Chapel).  The son of a successful apparel manufacturer,  studied in engineering and science.  After the death of his father, the revolutions in Europe changed his direction, the young Sutro took his family to America.  He arrived in San Francisco aboard the “California” in 1851 and went into the sundries business.  Sutro visited the Comstock mine and saw a need for his engineering background.  He secured the rights, found venture capital and oversaw the venting and drainage tunnels.  He sold his shares for $5,000,000 and came back to San Francisco.  The shore land he bought deemed by most as being worthless. Men employed by Sutro drilled wells, infrastructure installed, thousands of trees planted and the Land’s End Scenic Railroad built.

How many Cliff House have there been?

The Cliff House and Sutro Baths are one awesome place in the world
The burning Cliff House 1907

In 1894 the first Cliff House burned down and two years later re-opened in a French Chateau style along with the Sutro Baths.  Here he applied his engineering genius.  Classic Greek decor opened on a massive glass enclosure with 5 tanks holding 1,685,000 gallons of water at various temperatures and accommodating 1,600 bathers.  Three restaurants, an amphitheater, art and entertainment could service up to 25,000 people for dime. The water in the tanks could be changed in an hour with the tides.  Sutro was  San Francisco’s Mayor in 1895, a man of art and intellect, he amassed a large art collection and possessed the finest library in the United States at the time. Adolph Sutro died in 1898. 

The Cliff House & Sutro Baths San Francisco In 1907 The Cliff House burned again. His daughter Emma rebuilt and reopened in 1909. She upheld fine dining, a long tradition.  

What happened after 1907?

Two world wars and a depression took its toll and the Cliff House. In 1952 the Cliff House changed hand to George Whitney.  It was re-modeled several times.  In 1977, The National Park Service purchased the Headlands and the Cliff House to use as a visitor center.  Since 1972, the Cliff House owned and operated by Dan and Mary Hountalas, and under their expert stewardship, weathered the economic ups and downs of the end of the last century and over-saws the magnificent 2004 re-modeling that has once again restored the elegance and fine-dining tradition The Cliff House has always enjoyed. Special thanks go to Mary Hountalas for her description of the history of The Cliff House.

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The Cliff House and Sutro Baths are one awesome place in the world
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