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 ] Post Office Branch ] Rockefeller ] Train wreck ] Dive Cancelled ] Wireless ] CSAA ] Storm 1900 ] Storm 1901 ] Shriners Visit 1901 ] McKinley ] Henri Turot ] Moonlight Run ] 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 ]


Sutro's Aquarium Demonstration
Sept 3 1887


San Francisco Chronicle - 7 Jan 1886


The San Francisco Examiner - Jan 8 1886

An Aquarium

Adolph Sutro will complete within the next three months a salt-water aquarium on the shore of the small bay to the north of the Cliff House. It will be for salt water only, 120 feet in diameter, and contain every variety of sea anemone and shellfish. There are now forty men engaged on the work. Mr. Sutro finds that he cannot donate his valuable library to the city without the passage of an Act of the Legislature similar to the Act passed in relation to the Stanford gift.

Daily Alta California - 8 Jan 1886


San Francisco Morning Call - May 1 1887


New York Times - May 9, 1887 p5


San Francisco Morning Call - 14 May 1887


The San Francisco Examiner - Sep 4 1887

It is Tested by Allowing the Salt Water to Run Into It

A test of the adaptability of the basin which Adolph Sutro has constructed at the Ocean Beach for the purposes of an aquarium, was made yesterday. The basin is located near the Cliff House. The arrangement for the filling of the aquarium is an ingenious [sic] one, and has perhaps never before been adopted. A cut has been made in the face of parallel rock and a shelf hewn out, and as the waters beat against it and curl around the rock, it finds its way into the mouth of the tunnel which leads to the aquarium. This reservoir has a continuous supply of fresh sea-water three hours before and three hours after high tide. The basin cannot overflow, as trap doors are prepared to let out the surplus water. The aquarium — a large, rock-walled tank — holds about 500,000 gallons of water. A year and a half has been spent by the workmen in its construction. Between the basin and the aquarium there will be a system of heated pipes, which will enable Mr. Sutro to keep the water at the proper temperature for the fish with which he will stock it. The lower aquarium is divided into two compartments. Above them is another, which will be filled by hydraulic pressure. The test made yesterday was perfectly satisfactory, the waves breaking on the shelf and running into the basin by means of the tunnel in accordance with the design, thus showing that the plan adopted by Mr. Sutro is a feasible one. Leading from the aquarium in the lower bank will be a large iron pipe conveyer of water to the baths, which will cover some two acres. The tunnel through which the water passes is one hundred and fifty feet long and six feet high. The work of finishing the tunnel is by no means complete as yet, it being expected that another year will be required. There is yet some heavy masonry work to be done before the actual work will commence upon the aquarium. There will also be an additional attraction in the shape of a grotto, for the tunnel at low tide will be empty and will be covered with lichens, sea-mosses and other marine curiosities. Mr. Sutro has announced his intention of building another rock bulk-head from the aquarium to the opposite rock under the Cliff House, and enclose about two acres of sandy beach. This will be supplied with water from the overflow of the tunnel. The large tank of the aquarium he will probably turn into a swimming [sic] resort with the depth grauated [sic] from three to eight feet. No danger could be apprehend [sic] from sharks or other dangerous fish, as a screen would be placed over the mouth of the tunnel. It is also expected by Mr. Sutro to pump sea water up the hill to an altitude of 200 feet, where he will have a glass aquarium stocked with all the varieties of salt water fish.

Daily Alta California - 4 Sept 1887

The Successful Completion of One of Its Sections

Adolph Sutro and a number of visitors assembled at Parallel Point yesterday afternoon to witness the introduction of sea water to section one of his new marine aquarium. The large tank, built of rock and lined with cement, is situated in a cove to the north of the Cliff House, at a height of fourteen feet above the level of the sea at high tide. It is constructed in the form of a circle, having a depth of ten feet. It is eighty feet wide and forty feet long. Its capacity is estimated at 250,000 gallons. The water is conveyed to the tank by means of a tunnel 200 feet long, which has an incline of three feet from the opening to the extreme end. At the extreme north end of this passage-way and at the base of Parallel Point at an elevation of seventeen feet above high-water mark, a ditch or catchwater seventy-two feet long and twenty feet wide has been constructed in such a manner as to catch and deposit in the basin the heavy breakers that dash against the rocks at high tide. This overflow is conducted through the tunnel and finally deposited in the aquarium. On the west and southwest sides of the bluff similar trenches have been constructed, all emptying into the main passageway, which has been divided, for this purpose, into two sections of 100 feet each. The volume of water received by these trenches is conducted with extreme velocity through the tunnel as far as the main tank. The rock-walled aquarium will be connected by floodgates with the new tanks now in course of construction. As soon as they are completed Mr. Sutro intends stocking them with marine fish of all species. The third and largest tank will be used as a swimming bath. This will be enclosed by an immense glass structure. The work has occupied about one year and has been performed under the direction of A.D. Harrison. The aquarium was successfully filled yesterday in twenty minutes. There is little doubt that the new aquarium will prove a source of pleasure and instruction to those who visit the grounds of Mr. Sutro.

San Francisco Morning Call - 4 Sept 1887


San Francisco Chronicle - Sep 5 1887


The Latest Attraction Which Adolph Sutro Has Provided for Visitors At the Cliff

A number of visitors assembled Saturday at Sutro Heights, near the Cliff House, to witness the influx of sea water to the aquarium recently built by Adolph Sutro.

The aquarium is located to the north of the Cliff House on the property of Mr. Sutro. It has been built down in a recess in the rocky bank from which much material has been taken out from time to time for use in the improvement of Sutro Heights. It is built in the form of a circle, with the outer walls built up to a depth of fifteen or twenty feet, the inner walls being against the rock of the cliff. The aquarium is located not far distant from the beach, which at that point is very narrow. A pretty, winding road leads down from Point Lobos avenue and Sutro Heights down to the aquarium and its surroundings.

San Francisco Bulletin - 15 Sept 1887



Sutro’s aquarium is giving him considerable trouble. A quantity of sand slid into the basin yesterday and he is now devising some means of retaining the sand.

San Francisco Chronicle - 27 Sept 1887

A Troublesome Landslide

A landslide occurred at Adolph Sutro’s aquarium recently, depositing a quantity of sand in it. He will have it removed and completed the work. His library building will be, when completed, one of the handsomest in the State, as no expense is spared in its construction.

Daily Alta California - 27 Sept 1887


The Children’s Playhouse and Grounds – Sutro’s Aquarium and the New Steam-Motor Road

… Toward the beach the park has changed but little, and only at the Cliff House are there signs of active improvement. Adolph Sutro is still pegging away at his aquarium just north of the Cliff House, and the damage done to it by the storm some time ago has long since been repaired, and heavy masonry is being erected. High up on the top of the hill, at the foot of which the aquarium is still being built, is the road for the new steam-car line to the Cliff. The road is cut around the brow of the hill, emerging at the upper entrance to Sutro heights. From there it starts, passing out in full view of the Golden Gate, some hundreds of feet above the water, and skirting the shore at its most picturesque part. When complete, this will indeed be the “scenic road” to the Cliff House. The Marin county shore with its background of hills, the intervening waters of the bay, Angel Island, Alcatraz and Fort Point are passed on this road in panoramic review until when opposite a point known as Land’s End, the road plunges through the hill and finds its way to the heart of the city. From an artistic point of view, the mile and a half from the western exit of the tunnel to Sutro heights is the most picturesque bit of scenery on the peninsula. The road itself is wide and solid, and will not now require much more work to complete it. At the Cliff House several important improvements have been made, and the crumbling wall leading up from the beach has been torn down, and, during the erection of more solid structure, a strong fence has been put up. The road from near the crest of the hill winds round the rocks to the seaward side of the Cliff House, and will lead clear up to the aquarium. When complete, this road and the aquarium will add greatly to the pleasure of sightseers at the Cliff House.

San Francisco Chronicle - 8 Jan 1888


Our Educational Institutions

As a text for this article we take the following extract from the able, comprehensive and eloquent address of Hon. Frederick M. Campbell, superintendent of the Oakland schools, before the National Educational Association at Washington City, March 15, 1887:…

… Mr. Sutro has as yet made no formal offer, but has informally announced his intention of presenting to the public his library, the two large aquariums to which he is constantly adding and the botanical and other gardens connected with his large estate. President Holden thus speaks in his recent report of the offer of Mr. Sutro: "This site is an ideal one for a seaside biological laboratory, where scientific research shall he carried on, and Mr. Sutro will provide and will support the best aquariums in the world. These are now partly built. The site adjoins splendid gardens in which facilities are offered for experiments in botany and agriculture. The library of Mr. Sutro will be, in itself, half of a university, and access to it is equally important to all the colleges of the university. The site proposed is at the terminus of two cable roads, and will be less than one hour distant from the City Hall."

Pacific Rural Press - 21 July 1888



Hon. Warner Miller was entertained at lunch last Saturday by Adolph Sutro. He spent a great part of the afternoon in admiring the marine view from Sutro Heights and in inspecting the baths and aquarium now in process of construction.

San Francisco Call - 23 June 1891



For AQUARIUM AND BATH—W. B. H., Los Banos, Cal. The concrete construction on the ocean beach, immediately north of the Cliff House, is intended by Adolph Sutro both as an aquarium and a bath-tank.

San Francisco Call - 6 Dec 1891


A Watchman 'a Sight Destroyted by a Premature Explosion

Peter Petersen, a robust laborer who has been employed on the Sutro Aquarium, had his eyes injured yesterday afternoon by an explosion of giant powder and will probably lose his sight.

Petersen had drilled a deep hole in the rock near the Cliff House for the discharge of a blast of giant powder. He placed the cartridge in the hole and poured water into the cavity. A fuse was attached to the cartridge, and Petersen was looking at his arrangement when the cartridge exploded prematurely. His face was just above the opening, and the mud, gas and water thrown up by the explosion struck him with great force. He fell down stunned and sightless. Petersen was taken to the Receiving Hospital, where Dr. Berry attended him. The physician thinks that Petersen may recover his sight, but will always suffer from the injury he has received. Petersen is a Swede and has been employed for several weeks on the aquarium.

San Francisco Call - 15 July 1892


The Record-Union - Apr 29 1893


Image courtesy of John Martini