Sutro Baths: The Glory Days

I missed out on the Sutro Baths. A major fire in 1966 pretty much gutted the place and I was too young to have visited there let alone remember this place that through pictures was a glorious place to visit.

Opening in 1896, the Sutro Baths named after former Major Adolph Sutro who financed the build as well as the Cliff House next door created a natatorium similar to the old Roman baths, only well, bigger. We’re San Francisco and we have to one up everyone including the Holy Roman Empire. It was the largest indoor swimming pool establishment in the world at the time with one freshwater pool and six saltwater pools. You had hot pools, cool pools, tepid pools BIG pools and small pools, but it was more than just the water.

Sutro Baths was also home to the Musee Mechanique that I’ve written about before as well as a museum, concert hall that could hold up to 8000 people and an ice skating rink not to mention the obvious food vendors all around the place.

This was the type of place you would have expected to see young gentlemen in suits and hats with long mustaches and canes walking around with young ladies at their arms walking through the imported tropical palm trees gazing in amusement at the novelties that Adolph had brought back from his travels around the world. They even had their own Cliff House railroad to bring people from, “the city” to the outside lands more easily.

During high tide the pools would be refilled with roughly two million gallons of water within an hour and at low tide they would use a large centrifuge pump to do the same. It was like an 8th wonder of the world to many and it was know around the world. Sadly the operating costs got out of control and by the start of the 60’s only the skating rink remained.

[mappress mapid="35"]Now it is a shell of what it used to be, but there is still some interesting things to find in that shell. The high tides bring up deep dwelling fish and invertebrates that get deposited in the remaining ponds. There is one specific area that you have to break the law by climbing a metal fence and walking down some rickety stairs to a small observation deck that was built on a rock that is home to thousands of sea anemones. There is a little bridge area that goes into a now sealed off cave where people where found dead inside with no apparent cause of death. In the pool on either side of the bridge at night you can see the phosphorescent flashlight fish as they are commonly know glowing in the pools. It has a very H.P. Lovecraft feel to it.

There is also the remains of the rock bridge that took you out to fisherman’s rock. It was destroyed because too many fisherman would be out there oblivious to the tides and get swept away. There is also Seal Rock which was famous for its seals and seal lions prior to their vacating for more upscale digs at Fisherman’s Wharf. It has been said that groups of Satanists and Black Magicians have even gathered in this place to hold rituals. Who knows? It would be fitting for this place.

Now if I only had the chance to go back in time to experience it in it’s heyday. Any Black Magicians out there want to lend me a hand?

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