Ruins in San Francisco

Sutro Baths

Vadim I, Anatoly P. and 89,534 more people have been here

The Sutro Baths were a large, privately owned swimming pool complex in San Francisco, California built in the late 19th century. The building housing the baths burned down in 1966 and was abandoned. The ruins may still be visited.


On March 14, 1896 the Sutro Baths were opened to the public as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. The Baths were built on the sleepy western side of San Francisco by wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco (1894-1896), Adolph Sutro. The vast glass, iron, wood, and reinforced concrete structure was mostly hidden, and filled a small beach inlet below the Cliff House, also owned by Adolph Sutro at the time. Both the Cliff House and the former Baths site are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and operated by the United States National Park Service.

A visitor to the Baths not only had a choice of 7 different swimming pools—one fresh water and six salt water baths ranging in temperatures—but could also visit a museum displaying Sutro's large and varied personal collection of artifacts from his travels, a concert hall, seating for 8,000, and, at one time, an ice skating rink. During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the nearby ocean, recycling the 2 million US gallons (7,600 m³) of water in about an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on from a control room and could fill the tanks at a rate of 6,000 US gallons a minute (380 L/s), recycling all the water in five hours.

The baths were once serviced by a rail line, the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, which ran along the cliffs of Lands End overlooking the Golden Gate. The route ran from the baths to a terminal at California Street and Central Avenue (now Presidio Avenue).

The baths struggled for years, mostly due to the very high operating and maintenance costs, and eventually closed. A fire destroyed the building in 1966 shortly after, while in the process of being demolished. All that remains of the site are concrete walls, blocked off stairs and passageways, and a tunnel with a deep crevice in the middle. The Sutro Bath ruins are open to the public, but a warning sign advises strict caution, as visitors have been swept off by large waves and drowned at the site.

Currently, visitors coming to the Sutro Baths from the above parking lot are presented with a sign that describes the history of Sutro Baths starting from its construction and glamorous opening to the public in 1896. Another sign describes the later years of the site's history up until its demolition and complete destruction by fire in 1966. As one walks up out of the ruins toward the historic Cliff House, home to two full service restaurants: "Sutro’s at the Cliff House" and "The Bistro", as well as the "Terrace Room", a private Dining/reception room, one can find other pictures, paintings, and relics from the golden age of Sutro Baths’ functional operation.

Seal Rock is just offshore from the bath ruins.

Appearances on film

Footage preserved by the Library of Congress

Several films are stored by the Library of Congress as part of the American Memory collection and available for downloading and viewing online.

  • Sutro Baths, no. 1 and Sutro Baths, no. 2, filmed in 1897 by Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
  • Panoramic view from a steam engine on the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad line route along the cliffs of Lands End, starting at the Sutro Baths depot, filmed in 1902 by Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
  • Panoramic view from the beach below Cliff House at Sutro Baths, filmed in 1903 by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.

The Lineup (1958)

The 1958 film The Lineup was the only non-documentary film to use the fully-built baths as a shooting location. The scenes were shot after Sutro Baths' conversion to an ice skating rink.

Harold and Maude (1971)

The baths are featured in a scene in the 1971 film Harold and Maude in which Harold pretends to assault Maude while she acts the part of a war protester, in order to convince Harold's uncle (a high-ranking military man) that he is unfit for service. Maude "falls" down a hole in the ground and disappears after Harold grabs her protest sign and chases her with it, striking her and calling her various names such as "Commie!"

Bath statistics

Statistics according to a 1912 article written by J.E. Van Hoosear of Pacific Gas and Electric.

  • Length of baths: 499.5 feet (152.2 m)
  • Width of baths: 254.1 feet (77.4 m)
  • Amount of glass used: 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2)
  • Iron in roof columns: 600 tons
  • Lumber: 3,500,000 board feet (8,300 m3)
  • Concrete: 10,000 cu yd (7,600 m3)
  • Seating capacity, amphitheater: 3,700
  • Seating capacity, promenade: 3,700
  • Holding capacity: 25,000
  • Salt water tanks: 6
  • Capacity of tanks: 1,805,000 US gallons (6,830 m3)
  • Fresh water, plunge tank: 1
  • Toboggan slides in baths: 7
  • Swinging rings: 30
  • Spring boards: 1
  • Private dressing rooms: 517
  • Club rooms capacity: 1,110
  • Time required to fill tank by waves: 1 hour
  • Time required to fill tank by pump: 5 hours

See also

  • Lurline Baths
  • 49-Mile Scenic Drive


External links

Sutro Baths then

Over 100 photos taken at the Sutro Baths, including interiors not seen at any other links and pictures taken immediately before, during, and after the fire.

Sutro Baths now

Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
Gia L
16 September 2010
Beautiful! Just be aware there are 120+ steps down that you have to climb back up. Or you can take the ramp but that doubles the distance.
1 November 2011
Today’s adventurers will find lots of hiking around the ruins, a few good restaurants nearby, & some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll ever behold.
Load more comments

1004 Point Lobos Avenue, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Get directions
Open hours
Thu 2:00 PM–6:00 PM
Fri 11:00 AM–6:00 PM
Sat-Sun 10:00 AM–8:00 PM
Mon Noon–6:00 PM
Tue 1:00 PM–5:00 PM

Sutro Baths on Foursquare

Sutro Baths on Facebook

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Pacific Remedy Penthouse - Twitter Square, a Tritium Premier Collection

starting $591

Inn at the Opera

starting $298

Hotel Whitcomb

starting $337

Sleep Over Sauce

starting $0

Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Central

starting $197

SOMA Park Inn - Civic Center

starting $199

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Seal Rocks (San Francisco, California)

Seal Rocks is a rock island found offshore at the north end of the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Lincoln Park (San Francisco)

Lincoln Park in San Francisco, California, was dedicated to President

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Dutch Windmill (Golden Gate Park)

The Dutch Windmill is the northern of two functioning windmills, the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Legion of Honor (museum)

The Legion of Honor (formerly known as the The California Palace of

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Holocaust Memorial at California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The Holocaust Memorial at California Palace of the Legion of Honor is

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Mile Rocks Light

Mile Rocks Lighthouse is a lighthouse on a rock about 2 miles

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Murphy Windmill

The Murphy Windmill is a functioning windmill in San Francisco,

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Ocean Beach is a beach that runs along the west coast of San

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here

Aspendos or Aspendus (Greek Άσπενδος) was an ancient Greco-R

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located upon a

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Heidelberg Castle

The Heidelberg Castle (in German language named: Heidelberger Schloss)

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Jesús and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins

The Jesús and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins are located in Itapúa D

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery in Kirkstall

See all similar places