Seal Rocks and the Sutro Baths Photos

Sutro Baths InfoSutro Baths Photographs
     Along north beach, right before Point Lobos (the point where the coast turns in towards the Golden Gate) there is a fancy restaurant called the Cliff House. The restaurant, located near scenic cliffs, overlooks the Pacific ocean (nice for sunset dinners) as well as a formation of rock outcroppings in the ocean called Seal Rocks. The outcropping gets its name because seals use to sun on the rocks around the turn of the century. Recently the rocks have gone to the birds, with numerous gulls punching on them during the day. However, the rocks make impressive edifices sticking out of the ocean.

     The Cliff House is all that is left of the pleasure center that was located at this scenic portion of the Pacific Coast. In the 1890's a benevolent man named Adolph Sutro, who made his fortune building a tunnel into the Comstock, moved to San Francisco and took up residences in what is now known as Sutro Height. Sutro wanted a resort for San Franciscans so he bought a run down resort called the Cliff House. But his vision did not end there, he was fascinated with the sea creatures that he found in the rocks and crevices to the north of the Restaurant so he walled off a section of the cove to create tide pools. For people to view these creatures. He then went one step further. He saw the therapeutic value of swimming in salt water so he wanted to build a bath for people to go in to swim. He wanted to model it after European baths, but wanted this one to be for the common person. Quickly realizing that people would not want swim outside (North Beach is known for both fog and cold wind) he decided to build a tropical paradise inside a glass building with Victorian arches, palm trees and even a live band. There were multiple tiered baths that had cold water brought in at high tide. Sutro, being an Engineer, also drilled tunnels into the cliffs so people could watch the waves hit against them, as well as search for sea creatures. The building has been likened to a Victorian Palace with Roman baths inside.

   Being the only place in town to go (the bridges had not been built yet) and with Sutro's own transit line, the baths were a very popular place to go until around the 1940's where they began a gradual decline. They were finally abandoned to the elements in the 1950 and in the 1960 they were slated to be to torn down and housing built. (If the developers had there way there would be no open space in the entire Bay Area.) Then a mysterious fire (note this is different from the mysterious fire that destroyed the Cliff House in 1907) finished off the baths, burning the building down to the foundation.

     You can still go and see what is left of the crowning glory of Sutro and imagine what the place at one time was life. On a clear day you have a great view of the pacific and Seal Rocks. Please e-mail any comments to

Each photo is a thumbnail. Click on the photo or select the title to view in higher resolution

Seal Rocks

The Baths and Rocks


Foundations and Rocks

The Baths

Or what's left


People swam in this??

Seal Rocks Again

The Pacific

All That is Left
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All photos by John L. Polos
Copyright August 20, 1998