Sutro Baths: The Spectacular Swimming Facility That Fell Into Ruins

Sutro baths were the world’s largest saltwater swimming facility which ran into eerie ruins 70 years after their establishment...

3 years ago
Sutro Baths: The Spectacular Swimming Facility That Fell Into Ruins

Sutro baths were the world’s largest saltwater swimming facility which ran into eerie ruins 70 years after their establishment. It is located in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District which is one of the most beautiful settings of San Francisco.

Opened in March 1896, this large and privately owned swimming facility was situated near the Cliff House, Seal Rock, and Sutro Heights Park. A fire set ablaze the facility in June 1966. The site is now a part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area or GGNRA (operated by the United States National Park Service since 1973) and the Sutro Historic District.

This stunning pool complex surrounds smashing waves, intricate structure, wild lilies, cliff-lodged cypress trees, thundering caves and one signpost warning about the precarious cliff and surf area. (17.1)

The Rise & Fall Of Magnificent Sutro Baths

Source = Messynessychic

The Sutro Baths were opened to the public on March 14, 1896 as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. Adolph Sutro, the affluent entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco (1894–1896), developed the facility in the western San Francisco.

Adolph Sutro also designed Sutro Heights and Cliff House before the Sutro Baths. Named after himself, Sutro Bath’s was an ambitious project of his and his dream was to provide a healthy, recreational and affordable swimming facility to San Franciscans.

Source = Wikimedia

Despite all the thrill and glamor, the beautiful baths struggled with considerably high operational/maintenance costs and couldn’t be a commercial success in long-run. After Adolph Sutro’s death in 1898, his family managed the properties and the baths shrunk in popularity due to the Great Depression. There was a decrease in available public transportation and new public health codes were introduced.

Source = Messynessychic

To make the facility profitable again, the owners transformed the baths into ice-skating rink but even that wasn’t enough. When developers decided to replace the Sutro Baths with high-rise apartments in 1964, the site’s demolition began. Two years later in 1966, a fire burned the remaining Sutro Baths facility. One can find the concrete ruins of the grand Sutro Baths at the north of the Cliff House. (17.2)

Source = Wikimedia

The Fantastic Facilities At The Extravagant Sutro Baths

Source = Wikimedia

The ambitious Adolph Sutro created numerous recreational and educational opportunities for the San Franciscans which included:

  • 6 saltwater pools and 1 freshwater pool at various temperatures. The baths were 499.5 feet long and 254.1 feet wide and had a huge capacity of 1,805,000 US gallons. They were fitted with 7 slides, 30 swinging rings, and 1 springboard.
  • A 2700-seat amphitheater 
  • Club rooms with capacity for 1100 people
  • 517 private dressing rooms

Source = Messynessychic

  • A museum featured a broad range of stuffed and mounted animals, historic exhibits, galleries of paintings & sculptures, artworks from Mexico, China, Asia, and the Middle East, including the popular Egyptian mummies. Most of the museum exhibits were obtained from the Woodward's Gardens estate sale in 1894. (17.3)
  • Other attractions were band concerts, talent shows, and restaurants
  • 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels were offered for rent
  • An ice-skating rink 

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