July 1, 1909

Adolph Sutro's daughter, Dr. Emma Merritt, rebuilt the Cliff House to a more modest scale, a neo-classical design by the Reid Brothers, architects of the Fairmont Hotel.


General Beach View Newspaper


Analysis by John Martini, 8/6/2013

"The above photo was taken shortly after the building was completed -- definitely before the end of 1912. When the third Cliff House opened in 1909 it didn't have any of the exterior light fixtures shown in this photo. Here's a similar view (right) from the April 1910 "Estate of Adolph Sutro" showing the light-less building. Another clue can be seen below in a photo collection titled "Album from 1912-1913," which has dated snapshots of the Cliff House showing the lights in place in November 1912."

Photo: Sutro Estate 1910, Cliff House (GOGA 18443)


Album 1910


Click here for full album


Cliff House, c.1910
Source: Marilyn Blaisdell copy negative


Image courtesy Frank Mitchell  (reverse)


Cliff House, Feb 1910
Source: Marilyn Blaisdell copy negative


Postcard dated 13 Aug 1910  (reverse)


"9/16/22" on reverse
Note: the date is incorrect as the standalone concession stand just north of the Cliff House was gone by 1912.



"Promenade overlooking the Ocean, Cliff House, San Francisco, California.", postmarked 1912
Image courtesy of Phil Schnabel


"Cliff House, San Francisco Cal  July 2/12"
This photo shows the newer add-on concession stand, north side of Cliff House
ebay image




Courtesy of Frank Mitchell


Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke


Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke


View from terrace, Flag Rock below
(map illustrating perspective)


Taken in front of the Cliff House, Feb 11 1913
(click above image for reverse)
(WNPCHP WNP136.27)


Image courtesy of Judy Cash Collection


Image courtesy of Judy Cash Collection

"The soldier in the picture does appear to be black. The uniform that he is wearing is a Cavalry Mounted Dress Uniform prescribed for an enlisted man from the period 1913. It is a dress uniform. His rank is that of a SGT. The service stripes are the new 3/8 inch wide type. This is the dress uniform that would have been worn by American Cavalry just prior to WW1. Example can be found in the Horse Soldier Vol. 3, 1776-1943 page 154. As far as him being a Buffalo Soldier, all African-American soldiers who served in segregated units with white officers were considered Buffalo Soldiers."

Wallace Moore Historian, Cowboy poet, Living History Interrupter



John Martini analysis (4/14/09):  "A U.S. Army soldier in full dress uniform. Probably from the Presidio. It's hard to read the insignia but he appears to be wearing corporal's stripes. Also, the light colored bands on his hat and sleeves might have been yellow, which is the color associated with Cavalry troops. (Artillerymen wore red trim and Infantry soldiers wore blue, both of which would have photographed darker.)"

Judy Cash analysis:  There seems to be a special occasion about to start there, as they are decorating the teahouse with American flags. My estimation of date for this photo is February or March 1915 - possibly opening day of ppie?

Image courtesy of Judy Cash Collection

For more on the Tea House click here



Dated by the seller as "1915"


This photo shows a unique view of the Cliff House porch.  The reverse contains not just the exact date, but also time of day.
Reverse: "Cliff House San Francisco, 12 oclock noon, Wednesday August 11th 1915"  (scan of reverse)
Courtesy of Frank Mitchell

"Cliff House, Seal Rocks, San Francisco Calif, Summer 1915


Reverse: "Nov 25, 1915"




Print from Marilyn Blaisdell collection


postmarked June 25 1922 (reverse)


Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke





postcard, postmarked Apr 25 1923



A Day at the Beach, October 1911
Story by Diana (Kirchen) Kelly

"Everyone is in the third row -- standing are Jim Kirchen and his son Ben wearing a light colored hat, and John Francis Kirchen next to Ben wearing a dark hat.  Seated are Susan Kirchen (wife of Jim - wearing dark hat and glasses) and next to Susan is Uncle John Kirchen, wearing a stiff hat (not sure who the man is on the end of the 3rd row, closest to the camera -- not part of the Kirchen family as far as I know.)"
(click here for reverse)

"In the photo of the picnic, John Francis Kirchen is in front on the right, next to his mother, Kate Kirchen (Kate wearing a big white hat). The twins are on a blanket in the middle. My granddad, young Ben Kirchen is on the far left, partially cut off - sitting next to his parents Jim and Susan Kirchen." - Diana Kelly   (click here for reverse)

"We also went to the ocean and walked in the sand, took our lunch along and sat on the beach to eat.  We went to the Golden Gate Park on another occasion.  I remember taking the twins along when we went to the beach.  I have a picture taken at the beach, the twins are on a blanket enjoying themselves while the rest of us are enjoying a good lunch.  We also went on a sightseeing tour in a big open air bus, and I have a picture of it."  -- Ben Kirchen Autobiography, 1995

These were taken in October 1911, but I don't have the exact date.

My great-grandfather, John Peter "Jim" Kirchen was a farmer in Juniata, Adams County, Nebraska.  He had a younger half-brother living in San Francisco, John Joseph Kirchen.  I'll refer to him as "Uncle John" -- he was my granddad's uncle.  Uncle John had moved to San Francisco as a young single man around 1904.  He worked as a mechanic and engineer on cars and other machines.  He was living in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake, and ended up in a tent city.  This is where he met his future wife - Catherine "Kate" Lyng. They married in San Francisco on July 11, 1906, just a few months after the earthquake in April.  They had four children, three of whom are in the photo of the picnic (the youngest wasn't born yet).

Jim Kirchen was close to his younger half-brother, John, and after the harvest  in October 1911 he decided to take his wife and young son, Ben Kirchen, on a trip to San Francisco to visit John and his family.  My granddad Ben Kirchen was born in 1904, so he was seven years old in 1911.  He skipped a few weeks of school to make this trip.  When Ben wrote his autobiography at age 90, he remembered everything about his trip to California. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 101.

Diana Kelly, Nov 13 2016


This view was likely taken within a few years of the 'new' Cliff House opening.  The clues are the absence of buildings on the Terrace, the "Admission to Terrace 10 cents" sign, the light globes, and the rustic wood benches.  All these features changed in the late 1910's when buildings began to appear on the terrace.  BTW, 10 cents for the pleasure of visiting the Terrace was a lot of money for the time.  In today's dollars it translates to about $2.00.  -- J Martini






"Steps leading to Cliff House,  Frisco"
Courtesy of the John Martini Collection


"Steps to Cliff House, Frisco"
Courtesy of the John Martini Collection


Japanese Tea House
(click here for more)


Pages from an album from 1912-1913


Cliff House, July 1946 (reverse corrects the month to July)
Betz - Louise - Marie


About 1951
Frank Sternad (4/29/2024):  "Appears to be a 1951 Calif plate on the 1946 Dodge sedan in the foreground."



click image for full resolution


Possibly the earliest aerial photo of the Cliff House in existence!


One of the more creative Cliff House postcards
Published by Cantrell Illustrations


Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke


"A Moonlight Night at the Cliff House, San Francisco, Cal."
(same image seen on another postcard postmarked Mar 3 1911)