home page
Current issue
Previous issue
Timely tips
Remembering Sutro Baths

by Patricia M. Lee

variety of walks abound in San Francisco. One of my favorites begins along the fence near the Cliff House and ends up the hill at Louie’s Restaurant. Walk along the fence; look over it towards the ruins below, and try
to picture Sutro Baths in all its glory. This spectacular edifice, which cost one million dollars, was built in 1896 by the mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro, a German engineer who made his fortune in the silver mines of Nevada.

There were seven different pools.
The largest one was L shaped,
with a spring-board for divers.

According to Eugenia Kellogg Holmes, who wrote a biography of Mayor Sutro, the baths “rivaled
in magnitude, utility and beauty the famous resorts of Titus, Caracalla, Nero or Diocletian.”

In its early days, the Baths were the highlight of entertainment in the city. Athletes and spectators flocked to the building. It contained the largest and best in-door swimming pools in the city. There were seven different pools. The largest one was L-shaped, with a spring-board for divers. Most of the
pools were heated with a temperature that ranged between 50 and 110 degrees, and the depth of the water varied from two to 11 feet.

There was one cold water pool and a salt water one. Swings and other equipment were also available. There were 500 dressing rooms, spacious elevators, broad staircases to reach different levels, and many other areas. Individual
bathing suits were not allowed. Everyone used the Sutro suits, which were made of black onepiece,
sack-like material, with skirts added for the ladies.

This beautiful huge
glass-domed building,
lit-up with many lights,
gleamed like stars in the heavens.

The Baths remained open well into the late 1960s and eventually were destroyed by fire. I was very
lucky to be able to frequent the baths with my childhood friends. We laughed at the bathing suits, tried swimming in different pools, dived off the springboard in the large pool; and slid down the slides many times. It was great fun.

The area was open day and night. This beautiful huge glass-domed building, lit-up with many lights,
gleamed like stars in the heavens, sending rays of
lights out over the Pacific Ocean. Spectators enjoyed the night view from the galleries and
also watched the antics of those in the pools. The galleries seated three thousand people. Adjacent decks and promenades offered places to browse.
Mayor Sutro did much to enhance the quality of life for San Franciscans. Will there ever be
another man like him to rebuild some other entertainment there? A touch of nostalgia remains

Sutro Baths: www.sutrobaths.com.

Return to: Recent articles, Top, Home.



Sutro Baths Was built in 1896 and R3mained Open into the Late 1960s
Sutro Baths Archive photo

The Massive Size of Sutro Baths Attracted Many Spectators to its Galleries
Sutro Baths Archive photo