When you think of San Francisco, one of your first thoughts might be the famous Cable Car ride that starts on Powell Street, that takes you to see the curvy Lombard Street and finalizes your destination at the touristy pier where you can see the beautiful vistas of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
One San Francisco attraction you probably haven’t heard of is Sutro Baths, which was once a site that was popular to the San Francisco natives and hidden behind the curtain to the rest of the world.
The Baths were a large, privately-owned swimming pool complex envisioned and developed by the late-San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro that opened on March 14, 1896 as a public, recreational bathhouse that tended to up to 10,000 water loving patrons daily. The bathhouse supplied bathing suits, towels, and pretty much all the accommodations you needed to have a good time. From competitions, fairs, slides, trampolines, swings and diving boards, Sutro Baths was an aquatic playground for many.
Over the years the baths struggled, due to high-maintenance costs and within a century, the Great Depression and the AIDS epidemic began to take a toll and spark issues diminishing popularity of the bathhouse. In the mid-1960s a fire burned the baths down while in the process of being demolished, finalizing the end of an era. The city did not see a reason to rebuild the baths, so later they became property of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.
The first time visiting Sutro Baths, it was hard to believe a giant bathhouse once stood there. When you take a visit to the baths today, you’ll find old ruins; a deep pool of ocean water, broken down walls that still resemble that of a labyrinth, and a cave that intensifies an echoing, calming sound of the ocean.
Story By: Nico Triunfante
Images By: Nico Triunfante, Cliff House Project