Cliff House Project

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The goal of this website is to preserve the visual imagery of Adolph Sutro’s Victorian Cliff House. It was neither the first structure nor the last to carry the name of Cliff House, but it was certainly the most grand. Sadly, its existence was short-lived. It was constructed in 1896 and, like so many wooden structures of that era, burned completely to the ground in September of 1907.

Over the last few years I’ve collected a number of photographs and such, some from ephemera shows, some from antique shops, and many from ebay. But my personalAdolph Sutro resources can only go so far. My hope is that others who share an interest in the Cliff House will share their finds on this website as well. There’s an implied obligation of those (myself included) who own these nuggets of history to share them, not squirrel them away in some dusty shoebox only to risk oblivion via flood, fire, or neglect.

So by all means…drop me an email if you have some treasured photograph of your own that you’re willing to share. If you’re worried about copyrights, I can overlay the image with a watermark or some other identification to protect it from being copied. If you want to be credited, that's not a problem. If you have a capitalist slant and want to sell copies, I can link to your website. It’s all fine by me. As long as these images are not eventually lost forever, history is served.


  Cliff House Auction, Mar 4-5



Coalition to Save Ocean Beach / Friends of Sutro Heights Park
A Coalition of Groups devoted to improving the Parklands & City



The Cliff House will permanently close on December 31, 2020 unless immediate action is taken. The concessionaire and the National Park Service have not been able to agree on a new concession contract. Dan and Mary Hountalas have been the operators of the Cliff House since 1973.

Known by all San Franciscans and by millions of visitors, The Cliff House is a valued institution and part of the fabric of the City. According to Hountalas and as confirmed by the San Francisco Chronicle, NPS failed to timely post, and then failed to timely respond, to the bureaucratic process of renewing the concession. NPS granted Hountalas a series of short-term extensions. Now NPS requires the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process begin from the start -- which will take years -- and has stated that it is no longer looking to renew The Cliff House as a restaurant, despite its 157-year legacy.

Ignoring the pandemic, NPS has refused to negotiate an extension with Hountalas, offering only another short-term “take it or leave it” lease at full cost, regardless of the inability to operate a restaurant during this time. Hountalas, unable to operate The Cliff House for these many months, must continue to pay all ongoing expenses regardless of the closure. Alternatively, Hountalas must remove the entirety of their many decades of historic property and all restaurant furnishings and equipment, by December 31. The Cliff House would become a shuttered empty building for years.

NPS, with its ever-revolving leadership in Washington, D.C., is acting like an unconcerned and heartless landlord, without heed for the people who work at The Cliff House and community neighbors. This shows failure to abide by its own RFQ requirements. We urge immediate intervention with the NPS and the Secretary of Interior. There must be a way to resolve this immediately and fairly, without “take it or leave it” tactics. The pandemic will pass, and NPS need not produce years of blight and the eviction of a good and important neighbor in our community.

Write To:

Senator Dianne Feinstein:  link
Senator Kamala Harris:  link
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:  link
San Francisco Board of Supervisors: email links
State Senator Scott Wiener:  email
State Assemblyman Phil Ting:  link
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt:  email
GGNRA/National Park Service Superintendent Laura Joss:  email

And here is a link to a petition that you can sign and pass on:

Thanks Everyone!



  New Book!!! 

"Adolph Sutro, King of the Comstock Lode and Mayor of San Francisco"
by William R. Huber
Available from Amazon:  link
Publisher link:  McFarland


Sutro's Glass Palace: The Story of Sutro Baths

"Sutro's Glass Palace - The Story of Sutro Baths"
by John A. Martini (website)
Book available from Amazon (link)


"The Argonaut"
A story titled “Sutro’s San Francisco—What’s Left?” appears in the Summer 2020 issue
of "The Argonaut", the Journal of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
Online version:



Explore hundreds of stories and be immersed with Guidekick


Build you own Cliff House!!!


Courtesy of Wurlington Press
Click here for free plans!


*** New Cliff House Documentary ***

From the makers of the Playland & Sutro's documentaries.
For more information:


Amazing model of the 1896 Cliff House by Charlie Moran



This way to the Photo Gallery...



Looking for the Sutro Baths?  Right this way...




Or perhaps a stroll along Ocean Beach...


Special Collections
Jim Dickson

Glenn D Koch
Dennis O'Rorke 1 2
Bob Holloway
Frank Mitchell  1  2
Judy Cash

Bob Schlesinger
James Smith
Raldolph James
Taber Photos 1886

***   New Book!!!   ***

White Jade: A Novel
by Anna Podhaski
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Interested in using an image from this website?  Please look here.

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