Cliff House Project
A Program of Western Neighborhoods Project

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Sutro Baths

Exterior Interior Blueprints Construction Programmes Newspaper Film Destruction Misc


The Grand Staircase


Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke

Adolph Sutro & Ladies of National Medical Convention, June 8, 1894
(reference: San Francisco Call story, full page)
John Hall Collection

(close-up of above photo showing Adolph Sutro)


"7288 The Upper Promenade looking West, Sutro Baths, San Francisco, Cal.  Taber Photo"
Adolph Sutro standing center of photo
Marilyn Blaisdell Collection


glass negative, sleeve labeled "Interior Sutro Baths SSU-47"  (envelope)


Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke
John Martini (3/12/2022): "Based on architectural details like support columns and location of planters, this probably dates to around 1905."


Postmarked 3-14-1904  (reverse)
Image courtesy of Eric J. Dean




Image courtesy of Frank Mitchell

Image courtesy of Frank Mitchell

Image courtesy of Frank Mitchell


July 4, 1913 - Sutro Baths, Pacific Coast Swimming Championship
Source: Marilyn Blaisdell copy negative


The individual on the left resembles Adolph Sutro, although it's probably not him.  He lacks chin hair in his other photos.  (5/28/2022)


Sutro Baths visit by Hotel Men's Mutual Benefit Association, 4-23-1896, Taber

Thursday, April 23, 1896.
By the special courtesy of the Hon. Adolph Sutro, Mayor of San Francisco, these noted and beautiful scenic spots are open to the H. M. M. B. A. No place in San Francisco has been more famous for many years than the Cliff House. The old Cliff House was burned on Christmas Day, 1894, and the new building opened in February, 1896. Towering above it are the battlemented walls of Sutro Heights, castellated and fortified like a Rhine castle, but behind which are gardens of inexpressible beauty, where repose classical statues of great value. The Sutro Baths have just been opened to the public. The vast swimming tanks, the larger amphitheater for seated visitors, the extensive museums, make this the greatest and best of Mr. Sutro’s many munificent gifts to the people of San Francisco and California.

Source: Itinerary (pdf)



"6679   Elevator Promenade.  Sutro Baths, San Francisco, Cal.  Taber Photo., San Francisco, Cal"
Courtesy of Glenn D Koch Collection



John Hall Collection


postmarked Aug 4 1908  (reverse)


Courtesy of Glenn D Koch Collection

"107  Sutro Baths interior, looking east, San Francisco, Cal.   W.C. Billington, Photographer"
John Hall Collection


John Hall Collection


"Sutro Baths, looking east, May 1, 1896"
John Hall Collection


"Sutro Baths Interior, looking south.  May 1, 1897   W.C. Billington, Photographer"



"Binghamton (?) Boys playing at the Cliff House, San Francisco Cal."
(Band name is a best guess at this point.)
Courtesy of Glenn D Koch Collection

"Shooting the Shoots, Sutro Baths Cal."
Courtesy of Glenn D Koch Collection



Courtesy of Frank Mitchell

Photo dated to 1913 based on Water Carnival reference. Two such events can be found in the newspaper archives, both 1896 and 1913, but this photo is believed to depict 1913 for the following reasons:

- Cannot be 1896 as the concrete bases around the iron columns (circled here) weren’t added until around 1910.  (John Martini, 3/8/2023)
- "America's Greatest Swimming Meet" likely references the Pacific Coast Swimming Championships, featuring Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, so it seems more applicable to the 1913 championships than the swim races referenced in the July 1896 programme.  (Arnold Woods, 3/8/2023)




"1025 B.  Great Sutro Bath House, San Francisco"
Ingersoll View Company


"In the Great Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Copyright 1898 by Strohmeyer & Wyman"




Glenn D Koch Collection







Interior Sutro Baths, San Francisco, U.S.A.
Courtesy of Frank Mitchell


Entrance to Museum, Sutro Baths, San Francisco, U.S.A.
Courtesy of Frank Mitchell



1908 Killelea 0608 (Library of Congress)


1908 Killelea 0610 (Library of Congress)



Credit: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Martin Behrman Collection


Courtesy of the Jim Dickson Collection


Courtesy of the Jim Dickson Collection


"CHAS. WEIDNER, Photographer" (on reverse)






Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke





Sutro Baths - August 1915
John Hall Collection



Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke
(This same couple was also photographed in front of the Sutro Heights gate: link)


Photo from album, dated 1904


Scan courtesy of Dave D. (not related to individuals in photo)
(reverse: "Kids at Sutro's Aug 1918")

Dave D's recollections:  "I was born in San Francisco in 1952 and remember visiting the Museum and Ice Rink. As you descended the entry stairway towards the museum a left turn brought you to the ice rink entry stairwell. Just before reaching the stairwell there was a wooden case in the middle of the hallway about three feet tall and about three foot square. On top was a clear piece of glass that one could peer into and through a series of mirrors was able to look down a series of shafts that afforded a view of the ice rink from three floors above. I believe that the upper restaurant area at this time (in the early 1960's) was used for coin operated binoculars focused on Seal Rocks. The rear glass wall of the ice rink that was the separation from the old baths had a hand painted winter village scene across the entire wall. Kids would scratch off the paint to create peep holes for a view of the creepy old (haunted) baths. I've read that many of the curiosities purchased by Sutro came from Woodward's Gardens. The Baths were already closed when I was a boy but the Sutro Museum and Ice Skating Rink were still running. I had just turned 14 years old in 1966 when Sutros was lost to fire. The column of smoke drifted south over the Sunset district and headed south for Pacifica. It burned for three days. On the morning of the fourth day curiosity got the better of me, so my friend and I boarded an 18 Sloat and walked up the hill from Playland. The pit was still smoldering and yellow police tape was still surrounding the perimeter. Down below the tape was an old Sutro office cement vault room with the door open. Under the tape and down the hill we went. Inside the vault room was an 1800's hand painted safe about 5 feet tall and with the doors opened. it was empty of course except for a small box of Sutro Bath Admission tickets. The tickets were in decent shape considering the inferno they survived."








Second photograph from same shoot



"1919" (rev)


"1919" (rev)


Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths

The above photos were of the same film roll (here), likely taken between 1947 and 1950



Sutro Baths, with pools drained




Image courtesy of Dan Fontes


"Architect drawing" of Sutro Baths ice skate rink
Image courtesy of Frank Mitchell

"SUTRO BATHS IN WINTER ROBES, Architect's Conception of New Ice Palace"  Jan 22 1937
newspaper clipping of same illustration (publication unknown)
Image courtesy of Frank Mitchell


Ice Skating, Sutro Baths
ebay image


Sutro Baths ice skating rink
San Francisco Chronicle image (link)


Sutro Baths, main entrance from Pt. Lobos Ave.
This photo shows remodeling work in progress, likely taken just after George Whitney purchased the baths in 1952


Sutro Baths, main entrance from Pt. Lobos Ave., 1960
Similar to the previous photo, the turnstiles are clearly visible in both views

This small funhouse-type attraction within Sutro Baths existed during the period prior to the Whitney family purchase in September 1952. It's visible in photos dated between 1947 and 1950, seen here.  The structures were removed prior to October 1953, based on the below image.
35mm kodachrome slide  (front) (reverse)


San Francisco Chronicle - Feb 22 1953, p12



1953 Sutro Baths, pools 10-19-1953 (SFPL)




Sutro Baths Interior Changes Timeline - Pools
by John Martini  (11/26/2021)

1893 Construction views. No niche in south powerhouse wall.
1894 Niche appears and large orchestrion appear in wall. Shows up in pre-opening events.
1896 Early years. Orchestrion in niche. All five small pools uncovered.
1896? Pool #2 half covered.
1896 May Day. Pools #2 & #3 half-covered.
1898 Orchestrion in niche. Large case clock on balcony to left
1899c Orchestrion gone. Large case clock now in niche. Pools #2 & #3 completely covered.
1900 Early. Case clock again on balcony. Niche empty except for buckets. Pool #2 & #3 half covered
1900-‘04 Case clock on balcony. Niche has potted palms. Pools #2 & #3 completely covered (thru 1910c)
1905-’06 Case clock gone. Large poster on wall takes its place. Palms in niche.
1906 Oct Two palms in niche. No poster.
1907c Round wall clock appears in place of case clock.
1909c Only Pool #2 covered. Pool #3 becomes ‘For Ladies Only’
1910c Concrete casings added to lower parts of iron supporting columns.
1915c Light fixtures changed to reflector style.
1920c Niche in powerhouse wall enclosed with glass.
1934 Dogleg of tank #1 becomes Tropic Beach
Diving tank constructed
Volleyball court built over Pool #2
“Bathers Promenade” reduced in width
Parachute-like material hung from rafters
Sunbathing deck built on west side of building opposite Fisherman’s Rock
1936 Mural with seaside theme appears on south wall of diving tank
1937 Ice rink constructed. Wall built between tanks and rink.
Skaters’ locker room addition built on former west side sunbathing deck
1940c Parachute-like material removed from rafters
1947 Sunbathing and picnic area appear on east side of building.
1951 Promenade on east side of tanks enclosed with walls and windows; future Musee
1952 Jan Mural on diving tank gone.
1953c (Whitney era changes) Mural on skating rink side of wall repainted
‘Gay 90s’ cartoon characters painted on swimming tank side of wall
1953 Wooden scaffolding/framing erected around columns near tanks
Tank #3 covered and converted to lounging area with and picnic tables
1954 Jan 1 Pools closed permanently.