Pop-Up “Museum of the Cliff” Dives into Story of Sutro Baths

By Beth Lederer



A new pop-up museum, “Museum of the Cliff,” at the old Cliff House gift shop is open until April 2022.

This is the perfect destination to view the remnants from the past, a bygone era. The Western Neighborhood Project (WNP), with the assistance of other organizations, was key in bringing history back to life. You can take a stroll down memory lane by viewing the history of both the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House.

A sign of the Museum at The Cliff stands outside of the former Cliff House gift shop. San Francisco, March 10, 2022 (Karem Rodriguez / The Guardsman)

Some items were newly acquired by the WNP from the Cliff House auction in March 2021. The staff is very excited to share this history and listen to memories of those who come to view the museum. The museum brings to life picturesque scenes of Playland-at-the -Beach, Sutro Gardens and Baths and the Cliff House Restaurant. There is one picture and article describing the Sutro Baths which would have cost approximately $31,000,000 if built today.

The history of the former Cliff House and the Sutro Baths is displayed at the entrance of the Museum at The Cliff. San Francisco, March 10, 2022 (Karem Rodriguez / The Guardsman)

It was magnificent —   six swimming pools heated in different temperatures with water collected from the Pacific Ocean. On display in the museum are two bathing suits that would have been handed out to patrons while swimming at the Sutro Baths. This was a huge complex accommodating 25,000 swimmers, built with the wealth that Adolph Sutro was able to acquire as a mining engineer modernizing the Comstock tunnel. These baths are an important part of San Francisco history.

A 1920s Sutro Baths men’s bathing suit is displayed in the mseum. San Francisco, March 10, 2022 (Karem Rodriguez / The Guardsman)

There were supposedly four Cliff Houses, Adolph Sutro’s second Cliff House was built as a resemblance to a French Chateau on the edges of the cliff. It was opulent and spectacular, showcasing restaurants, art galleries, lunch galleries, parlors and verandas. This spectacular Cliff House unfortunately  burned down in 1907. The new Cliff House was built in 1909, which is the one which we see today. This Cliff House also has a rich history with changes of ownership throughout the decades.

In the latest chapter, the future of the Cliff House is once again yet to be determined.


March 26, 2022 Correction: Adolph Sutro did not modernize the Comstock tunnel. Rather, as Sutro Tunnel manager Chris Pattison has pointed out, “He built the Sutro Tunnel, a 4 mile long drainage adit that runs through the Comstock Lode.” 

3 thoughts on “Pop-Up “Museum of the Cliff” Dives into Story of Sutro Baths

  • March 24, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    I’m very much looking forward to going.

    For the tunnel though, Adolph didn’t modernize the Comstock tunnel . He built the Sutro Tunnel, a 4 mile long drainage adit that runs through the Comstock Lode.

  • March 19, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Thank you for bringing back good memories for me

  • March 18, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    I Look forward to visiting the museum. I came to California 1948 and had family in the area. Back when kids ( I was 11) could roam on their own, my cousin and I – swam at Sutro Baths, had loads of fun at Play Land, the Old Fleishhacker Zoo , Golden Gate Park, and swam at the big Fleishhacker pool. Through the years my family had many enjoyable times at the Cliff House. Just before the Covid I took my grand children and great grand children to explore San Francisco and we had lunch at the Cliff House. I will turn 84 this year and have fond memories of the area. I do hope the Cliff House will reopen soon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Guardsman