Cliff House Project
A Program of Western Neighborhoods Project

Chambers ] CC Butler Purchase ] Samuel Tetlow ] 1863 ] Mark Twain ] Wreck of the Ann Parry ] James Cook ] Wreck of the Elizabeth Owens ] Jack Lee ] Rosa Celeste ] [ 1868 ] Brignardello Wreck ] George Francis Train ] Ralph Waldo Emerson ] Josephine Wilcutt Wreck ] King Kalakaua ] General Sherman ] King Philip Wreck ] Grant ] Ben Butler ] Hayes ] Sutro Visits Lands End ] Sutro Purchase ] Ocean & Park RR ] Foster Leaves ] Adelina Patti ] Bridge Collapse ] OB Pavilion ] Sutro Heights Opens ] Baldwin Tightrope ] Boyton ] Atlantic Wreck ] Baldwin ] Parallel Wreck ] Aquarium ] Ferries and Cliff House RR ] Davison Bros ] Capt Jack Williams ] John Williams ] balloon ] Bullet hits Cliff House ] Harrison ] Boxers ] Millie Lavelle ] Sutro Baths Opening ] Andrew Carnegie ] Storm 1892 ] Leland Stanford ] Balloon Crash ] Sutro fights with Southern Pacific ] Burglary 1894 ] Sutro Elected Mayor ] Xmas fire ] 1895 ] Caroline Miskell ] 1896 ] Storm 1896 ] Sutro Railroad ] Vanderbilt ] Olcott ] Airship ] Mayor Phelan ] William Jennings Bryan ] High Dive ] Sutro Illness ] John Harris ] Sutro Death ] Political Banners 1896 or 1898 ] Post Office Branch ] Rockefeller ] Train wreck ] Dive Cancelled ] Wireless ] CSAA ] Storm 1900 ] Storm 1901 ] Shriners Visit 1901 ] McKinley ] Henri Turot ] Moonlight Run ] Fritzi Scheff ] Reporter Wreck ] Shriners Visit 1902 ] Buffalo Bill ] Political Banners 1902 ] Pacific Cable ] Roosevelt ] Union Strike ] Coast to Coast ] Debt ] Storm 1904 ] Storm 1904 Sept ] Storm 1905 ] Knights of Columbus ] Reopens ] Cliff Line ] Radio ] Storm 1905 Dec ] Storm 1906 Jan ] Earthquake ] Minor Fire ] Storm 1906 ] Remodel ] Fire ] Atlantic Fleet ] 1908 ] 1909 ] Fannie Brice ] Taft ] Telegraph Tower ] Landslide 1916 ] War Takeover Threat ] Rudolph Valentino ] Sarah Bernhardt ] Closes 1918 ] Reopens 1920 ] Remodel 1922 ] DPW Roadwork ] Shriners 1922 ] Prohibition Bust 1923 ] Prohibition Bust, 1925 ] Landslide ] Faux Rock ] Coffee Shop Opens ] Closes 1925 ] Storm 1926 ] Ohioan Wreck ] Charles Sutro Death ] Whitney Purchase ] 1949 Remodel ] Sutro Baths Sold ] Skytram ] Sold 1964 ] Baths Fire ] Blue Cliff House ] 2003 Remodel ] Closed 2021 ]



Front Beach View Oceanside Interior Floor Plan Newspaper Misc


This version of the Cliff House shows the original 1863 structure surrounded by additional wings on both sides.


Courtesy of Frank Mitchell


Glass slide (sleeve)


"Cliff House and Shed" (stables)
by Thomas Houseworth & Co
John Martini estimates the date as 1868 (post expansion) to 1881 (predates Sutro's Norman castle addition to SE corner)
(see: full stereoview; reverse side)


A second photo presumably taken during the same photo shoot
Courtesy of Frank Mitchell



Adolph Sutro in group shot on heights, Cliff House in background

Cliff House, crowd of people including Adolph Sutro in foreground
Photographer: A.J. McDonald

close-up of crowd, arrow on Adolph Sutro


A.J. McDonald




Photographer: Perkins
Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke



Thomas Houseworth


A.J. McDonald


Courtesy of Bob Schlesinger


Photo by Carleton E. Watkins
Courtesy of Bob Schlesinger

If you zoom in on the left structure, you will see what looks like the letters "LS".  John Martini contributes the following... (11/12/2010)

"I came across an 1870s SF newspaper article that explained that "LS" on the front of the Cliff House was a sort of pun. The letters stood for two Latin words (that I now can't remember) that also appeared on the corner of legal documents of the era that translated to "place for the seal" -- referring to the embossed legal seal.  The pun, of course, was that the Cliff House was also the 'place for the seal.'"

"New Railroad to the Cliff" - Daily Alta California - July 2, 1888

Zoe Heimdal: “LS” actually stands for “locus sigilli”, Latin words meaning. “the place for the seal”.

A google search uncovers the following passage from Bret Harte's book "Under the Redwoods" (published 1901), in a story titled "Bohemian Days in San Francisco" (pg 153)...

My Bohemian wanderings were confined to the limits of the city, for the very good reason that there was little elsewhere to go. San Francisco was then bounded on one side by the monotonously restless waters of the bay, and on the other by a stretch of equally restless and monotonously shifting sand dunes as far as the Pacific shore. Two roads penetrated this waste: one to Lone Mountain--the cemetery; the other to the Cliff House--happily described as "an eight-mile drive with a cocktail at the end of it." Nor was the humor entirely confined to this felicitous description. The Cliff House itself, half restaurant, half drinking saloon, fronting the ocean and the Seal Rock, where disporting seals were the chief object of interest, had its own peculiar symbol. The decanters, wine-glasses, and tumblers at the bar were all engraved in old English script with the legal initials "L. S." (Locus Sigilli),-- "the place of the seal."

Daily Alta California - 10 January 1875

The Record Union - May 19 1882
"locus sigillum - the Place of the Seal, as Charley Webb once facetiously called the Cliff House"
(full article)  (page pdf)


Image courtesy of Blaisdell Collection


"10 - The Cliff House, San Fraincisco"
Continent Stereoscopic Co.


Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke



After Adolph Sutro purchased the Cliff House in 1881 he implemented numerous
changes, including the "Normal Castle" entry structure, left side of building, as seen below.



Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection
Photo likely taken sometime after March 9 1888, due to "S.F. Collateral Loan Bank" sign, far right.
According to this ad the business was "Incorporated, March 9th, 1888"


"3 Cliff House and Seal Rocks from Parapet, Sutro Heights"
Source: OAC (link)



Taber Photo
Note cables between shore and outcrops.  Click here for close-up.
Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection

Cliff House ca1890, A.J. McDonald
Courtesy of the John Martini Collection


"No. 40, Sutro Heights, San Francisco, Cal., 1886, Cliff House and Seal Rocks.  Taber Photo"
Source: OAC (link)

View looking up Cliff Avenue towards "Cliff House Cottage."  Carriage sheds for the Cliff House are at left.
Image courtesy of Grace Winterton, click here for additional photos.