Cliff House Project

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Timeline

While the focus of this website is the short-lived victorian cliff house (1896-1907), this timeline includes events both before and after that period for historical perspective...

For a chronological photographic timeline, click here.

 

  before 1854   Chambers homesteads Lands End (160 acres)
1854   CC Butler purchases Lands End property
1860   Samuel Tetlow moves to heights  
1863
 
First Cliff House built by C.C. Butler & Senator Buckley
Jun 25, 1864
 
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) pays a visit
Jan 4, 1865   Wreck of the Ann Parry  
Sep 24-27, 1865
 
James Cooke walked a tightrope from the Cliff House to Seal Rocks
Apr 22, 1866   Wreck of the schooner Elizabeth Owens  
Jun 24, 1866   Mlle. Rosa Celeste attempts tightrope walk  
1868
 
Captain Foster triples size of building by adding two wings
Sept 3 1868   Wreck of the Brignardello  
May 22 1869   George Francis Train visits
Apr 24 1871   Ralph Waldo Emerson visits
Jan 25 1872   Wreck of the Josephine Wilcutt  
Dec 1, 1874   King Kalakaua Visits Cliff House
Sept 21, 1876   General Sherman Visits Cliff House
Jan 25, 1878   Wreck of the King Philip  
Sep 22, 1879
Sept 29, 1879
  General Grant visits (twice)
Jun 2, 1880   Benjamin Butler Visits
Sep 20, 1880
 
President Rutherford B. Hayes visits Cliff House for lunch
Mar 2 1881   Adolph Sutro & daughter Emma first visit Outside Lands
May 1881
 
Adolph Sutro purchases 1st Cliff House & surrounding lands
 
1883   Ocean & Park Railroad Construction  
1884   Captain Foster leaves  
March 1884

 

  Adelina Patti visits Cliff House

 

Apr 6 1884   Suspension bridge to Flag Rock collapses
Jun 14 1884   Ocean Beach Pavilion Opens
Sep 5, 1885   Sutro Heights Opens  
Oct 11, 1885   Baldwin Aborted Tightrope Walk  
Apr 18, 1886
May 2, 1886
  Captain Paul Boyton's Aquatic Exhibition
Dec 17, 1886   Wreck of the Atlantic
1887
 
Thomas Scott Baldwin makes first parachute jump (????)
Jan 17, 1887
 
Schooner Parallel explodes, destroying the north wing
Apr 8, 1887
 
 
Sutro hints of new structure
Sept 3, 1887   Sutro Aquarium Demonstration  
July 1, 1888
 
Ferries & Cliff House Railroad begins operation
Mar 18, 1888   Davison Brothers Tightrope Walk
Oct 1889   Capt Jack Williams spends week on Seal Rock  
Nov 17, 1889   John Williams Tightrope Walk  
Apr 12, 1890   Baldwin's Grand Balloon Ascension  
Apr 2, 1891   Cliff House hit by gunfire  
Apr 27, 1891
 
President & Mrs. Harrison visit
May 26, 1891   Sullivan & Corbett visit Cliff House
Oct 11, 1891   Millie Lavelle tightrope walk  
1892   Sutro Baths early opening  
Mar 10, 1892   Andrew Carnegie visits Cliff House
Nov 28, 1892   Storm Damage  
Jan 10, 1893   Leland Stanaford visits Cliff House
Apr 16, 1893   Balloon Crash
May 1894   Sutro Fights with Southern Pacific
May 15, 1894   Cliff House burglary  
Nov 6, 1894   Adolph Sutro elected mayor of SF
Dec 25, 1894
 
First Cliff House burns to the ground
 
1895
 
Adolph hires architects Lemme & Colley to build a new Cliff House
Nov 2 1895   Caroline Miskel Visits Cliff House
Jan 14 1896
 
The new Cliff House opens for business
Jan 19 1896   Storm Damage  
Feb 1 1896
 
Sutro Electric Railroad Opens
Apr 5 1896   Cornelius Vanderbilt II visits
Aug 9 1896   Actor Chauncey Olcott visits
Dec 1896   Mysterious Airship Visit
Jul 8 1897   William Jennings Bryan visits
Oct 31, 1897
 
High Dive from Cliff House
Feb 7, 1898   Adolph Sutro declared mentally incompetent  
Feb 16, 1898   John Harris, a "colored man", wins judgement for exclusion from Sutro Baths  
Aug 8, 1898
 
Adolph Sutro dies after a long illness
May 9, 1899   Cliff House Post Office Branch Established  
Jun 9, 1899   John D Rockefeller visits Cliff House
Jun 25, 1899   Point Lobos Train Wreck
Jul 4, 1899
  High Dive Cancelled  
Aug 23, 1899
 
First ship to shore wireless transmission was received at Cliff House
Mar 3, 1900
 
Meeting at Cliff House founds CSAA (Calif State Auto Association)
Nov 21, 1900   Storm Damage  
Jan 3, 1901   Storm Damage  
March 1901   Shriners Visit 1901
May 15, 1901
 
President McKinley visits
June 6, 1901   Henri Turot visits
Oct 26, 1901   Automobile Club Moonlight Run  
Feb 23, 1902   Storm  
Mar 13, 1902
 
Schooner "Reporter" is shipwrecked off Ocean Beach
June 1902   Shriners Visit 1902
Sept 13, 1902   Buffalo Bill visits Cliff House
Dec 13, 1902   Laying of the Pacific Cable
May 13, 1903
 
President Roosevelt visits
Jun 14, 1903   Waiters Strike
June 20, 1903   First Transcontinental Auto Race  
Nov 21, 1903   Sheriff briefly takes control over debt
Mar 1904   Storm Damage  
Sept 1904   Storm Damage  
March 1905   Storm  
May-June 1905   Knights of Columbus Visit
May 27 1905   Steam train around Lands End converted to electric streetcar begins operation
Aug 27, 1905

 

  Cliff House Grill Opens  
Sept 2, 1905   Francis McCarty demonstrates voice transmission using radio from Cliff House
Dec 25, 1905   Storm  
Jan 13, 1906   Storm  
Apr 18, 1906
 
San Francisco earthquake - Cliff House sustains only minor damage
Sep 11, 1906
 
Cliff House minor fire
Dec 10, 1906   Storm Damage  
Apr 23, 1907   Cliff House to be remodeled  
Sept 7, 1907
 
Cliff House burns to the ground
  May 6, 1908   Atlantic Fleet visits San Francisco
1908
 
Adolph daughter Emma starts construction of a new Cliff House
July 1, 1909
 
New Cliff House opens for business
Apr 19, 1911   Fannie Brice Visits Cliff House
Oct 15, 1911
 
President Taft lunches at the Cliff House
1912   Telegraph Tower Installation  
Jan 14 1916   Landslide
Nov 24 1916   Mrs Douglas Crane becomes manager  
27 July 1917   Army Threatens Takeover
fall of 1917   Rudolph Valentino dances at Cliff House
July 1918   Sarah Bernhardt visits Cliff House
July 18, 1918  
Army order forces closure
Dec 8 1920   Reopens with Richard (Shorty) Roberts, proprietor
1922   Pt Lobos Road Construction  
Jan 1922   Remodel 1922
June 1922   Shriners Visit 1922  
Jan 1, 1923   Prohibition Bust!
Jan 1, 1925   Prohibition Bust!
Jan 5 1925

 

  Cliff House reopens as Coffee Shop

 

Feb 7, 1925
 
Landslides destroy the streetcar line around Lands End
1925   Faux Rock

 

Oct 1925   Cliff House Closes
Feb 8 1926   Storm-tossed Schooner Wrecks Lurline Pier
Apr 26, 1936   Owner Charles W. Sutro dies  
Oct 7, 1936   Wreck of the Ohioan
Dec 1936   Sutro family sells Cliff House to George Whitney
1946   Floyd Jennings builds Camera Obscura on terrace
1949
 
Streetcar service ceases to Sutro and Cliff House area
 
1949   Cliff House remodeled
1952   George Whitney buys Sutro Baths  
May 1955

 

  Whitney's Sky Tram begins service

 

1964   Robert D. Fraiser Acquires
50% Interest
 
June 26, 1966   Sutro Baths Fire
1973   Blue Cliff House
June 21, 1973   Dan & Mary Hountalas become proprietors of the Cliff House  
July 1977   GGNRA acquires Cliff House
2003   Reconstruction
1 Jan 2021   Closed  

Not all newspaper stories fit into the above timeline.  You can view them here.

 

 

Cliff House Proprietors & Managers

  Proprietor Lessee / Manager  
1863 Junius G. (Captain) Foster    
1878? ("3 yrs") Moss & Sheldon    
May 1881 Adolph Sutro Junius G. (Captain) Foster May 1881 - 30 Dec 1883
    George Sheldon & Hugh McCrum 1884 - 23 Oct 1885
    Moss  
    R. C. Pearson Jan 1887 - Jun 1887
    James Malcom Wilkins 1885 (?) - Sep 1907
8 Aug 1898 Sutro Estate

    John Tait Sep 1907 -
    John Farley 1910 - 1912
    Roy C. Carruthers 1912 - May 1915
    Mrs. Douglas Crane 24 Nov 1916 - 1918 (?)
    John Farley (2nd time) Jul 1918
   

CLOSURE (wartime)

1 Aug 1918 -
    Richard P "Shorty" Roberts 8 Dec 1920 - Oct 1925
   

CLOSURE (prohibition)

1 Oct 1925 - 1937
Dec 1936 George & Leo Whitney

    Al C Hunds 5 Aug 1937
    Foster's Cafeteria 1953 - 1 Apr 1968
    Dan & Mary Hountalas 21 Jun 1973 - 31 Dec 2020
Jul 1977 National Park Service

   

CLOSURE (pandemic)

1 Jan 2021 -

The newspaper record is unclear on whether Captain Foster was the owner (proprietor) or manager (lessee).  The above
table is incomplete as there are gaps in the record.  The below newspaper clippings hint at other individuals who were
involved, but not yet properly placed in the above table.

 


Excerpt from "Sutro baths, Cliff House, Sutro Heights - 1895", page 6 (link)
 


San Francisco Chronicle - Oct 15 1903
"J. Mendelson, manager of the Cliff House"
It is unclear to me that "J Mendelson" was a Cliff House manager as this is the only reference.  Possibly an employee of Wilkins?
 


Oakland Tribune - Feb 24 1920
Upon further research I believe that Jacques Bustanoby never fulfilled
the role of Cliff House manager, per the evidence presented here.

 


The San Francisco Examiner - Feb 10 1937
"Julius Rosenfield, 63, former manager of the Cliff House"

 


The Weekly Calistogan - Jul 25 1957
"Owner - manager Solomon of the Cliff House"
 


The San Francisco Examiner - Nov 3 1960
"Cecil Carrig, manager of the Cliff House"

 

 

 


Dignitaries

Other dignitaries are believed to have visited the Cliff House, but I have not yet tracked down
definitive dates.  Any help is much appreciated...

  • Prince of Wales  (1860?) (Edward VII)

  • Oscar Wilde    (in SF 1882, a fictional account documented here, but real visit still possible)

  • Princess Louise    (Dec 1882 one possible date)

  • Sir Henry Stanley  (in SF in March 1891, one possible account here, but possibly fictional)

  • Marquis of Lorne

  • Enrico Caruso  (b.1873-d.1921, possible visit the day after the 1906 quake)

Newspaper clipping referencing others here

If you have evidence of other dignitary visits, please email me...   gary@cliffhouseproject.com
 

 

Human Interest:
Chef, 1906
 


 


Finally just for fun, here's a rendition of the Victorian Cliff House if it had survived to the present...


 


John Hall

 

***  Special thanks to John Martini for his invaluable help constructing this timeline.  ***