“The Ambitious & Magnificent Sutro Baths!”
By day, the site of Adolph Sutro's ill-fated bathhouse is eerie enough, a crumbling ruin swamped by fog. Nighttime transforms it into a pitch-black abyss. It is rumored that a few unlucky souls were once sacrificed in the nearby cave, and that their spirits will come calling when a candle is lit.
The Sutro Baths were a large, privately owned swimming pool complex in San Francisco, California, built in the late 19th century. The building housing the baths burned down in 1966 and was abandoned. The ruins can still be visited.
On March 14, 1896, the Sutro Baths were opened to the public as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. The baths were built on the sleepy western side of San Francisco by wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco (1894–1896), Adolph Sutro. The vast glass, iron, wood, and reinforced concrete structure was mostly hidden, and filled a small beach inlet below the Cliff House, also owned by Adolph Sutro at the time. Both the Cliff House and the former baths site are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and operated by the United States National Park Service.
A visitor to the baths not only had a choice of seven different swimming pools—one fresh water and six salt water baths ranging in temperatures—but could also visit a museum displaying Sutro's large and varied personal collection of artifacts from his travels, a concert hall, seating for 8,000, and, at one time, an ice skating rink. During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the nearby ocean, recycling the two million US gallons (7,600 m³) of water in about an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on from a control room and could fill the tanks at a rate of 6,000 US gallons a minute (380 L/s), recycling all the water in five hours.
At the Sutro Baths, Sutro also maintained an extensive collection of stuffed and mounted animals, historic artifacts, and artwork, much of which he acquired from the Woodward's Gardens estate sale in 1894.
The baths were once serviced by a rail line, the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, which ran along the cliffs of Lands End overlooking the Golden Gate. The route ran from the baths to a terminal at California Street and Central Avenue (now Presidio Avenue).
The baths struggled for years, mostly due to the very high operating and maintenance costs. Shortly after closing, a fire in 1966 destroyed the building while it was in the process of being demolished. All that remains of the site are concrete walls, blocked off stairs and passageways, and a tunnel with a deep crevice in the middle. The Sutro Bath ruins are open to the public, but a warning sign advises strict caution, stating "People have been swept from the rocks and drowned."
Currently, visitors coming to the Sutro Baths from the above parking lot are presented with a sign that describes the history of Sutro Baths starting from its construction and glamorous opening to the public in 1896. Another sign describes the later years of the site's history up until its demolition and complete destruction by fire in 1966. As one walks up out of the ruins toward the historic Cliff House, home to two full service restaurants: "Sutro’s at the Cliff House" and "The Bistro", as well as the "Terrace Room", a private Dining/reception room, one can find other pictures, paintings, and relics from the golden age of Sutro Baths’ functional operation.Seal Rock is just offshore from the bath ruins.
I've been here several times.. it's truly something to experience.. love the history surrounding it.. you can walk into the cave during low tide and walk on the walls that used to hold each bath house..
Such a beautiful spot. We stumbled upon a wedding party taking photos along the wall and amid the ruins. Spectacular photo op.
One of the coolest abandoned places in America, and absolutely worthy of a road trip detour. At the very least, you can go check out the Golden Gate Bridge.
I have had a huge print of this place in my living room for years and never knew the exact history. As soon as I saw this Facebook post today I had a sneaky suspicion that this was it. So cool to finally have a story to tell behind this wonderful picture!
Ever since I heard about this place from a 99% Invisible podcast my curiosity was struck. All that's left now are the ruins and pools abutting the edge of North America, truly mesmerizing.
Beautiful spot to just hang out, go for a walk / jog, or enjoy the beach / view. Has a unique historical landmark and the path from Sutro Baths pans out to other paths, so there's a lot to explore.
I highly recommend looking up the history of this place before visiting so you can truly appreciate what the Cliff House and Sutro Baths went through over time. I can just imagine this beautiful place in it's heyday, beaming above the waves of SF's coastline. The foundational remains of what you see today do not compare to what it was, but you can get a great idea of how massive it used to be. My favorite thing to do is stand between the Cliff House and Louis' Restaurant off Point Lobos Ave. and imagine the monumental size and majesty of what this place once was. Explore the ruins and equally gorgeous coastal area via the trails surrounding - it is just beautiful! Also, get there early and during the work week, if possible as weekends are very crowded and parking is hard to find.
These ruins were cool. Parking was a nightmare, but we visited on a Saturday...so that is to be expected. The cave is fun to walk through. If you wear shoes that allow it there are places you can do some climbing.
Just a glorified Seagull bath. Nice view from the overlook above of the baths and the beach. Very smelly with a lot of trash and graffiti up close.
This place is amazing. I researched it after visiting and it looked like a fascinating place when it was up and running.
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