Sutro's

The entrance to Sutro's
ice rink

Sutro Baths
 facade

The original entrance to the baths.

Sutro Baths
 exterior

A later facade after the baths were redecorated in a "tropical" motif.


Adolph Sutro, a mining engineer who made his fantastic fortune in the Comstock Lode Silver Mine, bought acreage at the western headlands of San Francisco and built his home there in 1881. Fifteen years later, on a three-acre parcel, he built the Sutro Baths. This extravagant Victorian structure cost $1 million and contained seven salt water plunges of varying temperatures, including slides, springboards and diving towers. The grand opening was held on March 14, 1896. The pools contained a total of 1.7 million gallons and there were 20,000 bathing suits for rent (the facility could hold 10,000 people at a time). The tropical winter garden was lush with palms and gingerbread detail, including massive galleries for those who only wished to watch the swimmers. Sutro also built his own railroad to take the public from the City out to the Baths.

There were also stage shows and extravaganzas held in the structure. Three restaurants could accommodate 1,000 people at a sitting. A museum displayed oddities such as mummies, a miniature motorized amusement park made entirely of toothpicks, dozens of stuff animals, and Tom Thumb's clothing.

The baths were popular for a brief time, but were closed off and an ice skating rink was installed in the southern-most section of the building in 1937. There was originally glass between the rink and the baths, but by the 1950s, the panels had been painted over, though you could still see the vast, ghostly pools through a scratched area. The revenue from skating was not enough to maintain the structure, and it was slated for demolition when it burned in 1966. Sutro's home on the hills above the baths had also burned. The entire area is now a park, and the ruins of the concrete pools can still be seen today, adjacent to the newly renovated Cliff House.

The biggest challenge for skaters was the enormous staircase which had to be climbed after a workout in order to exit the building--my memory is that it was the equivalent of about five flights, and after an intense lesson, excruciating. In the 1960s, the ice surface was still excellent and a staff of pros taught at the rink. George Whitney was the owner in later years.




Sutro Baths
 interior

The Sutro Baths in their heyday. The ice rink was built at the far end, center, of the picture where the aqua slide is located.

Sutro Baths
 interior

The area where the ice rink was installed. The figure skating club had its headquarters on the mezzanine level, against the glass, on the right side of the photo. A glass and plaster wall separated the rink from the closed plunges.

Sutro Baths
 interior

The first of many staircases leading from the street level to the ice rink.

Sutro Baths
 grand staircase

The original grand staircase. This remained after the baths were closed but it was seldom used as it led from the mezzanine to the museum rather than to the street.

Sutro Baths
 stage

Setting up for an extravaganza on the stage. This is the area where the ice rink was built.

Sutro Baths
 stairs

More stairs down from the street.

Sutro Baths
 fire

Firemen battle the blaze in 1966 which destroyed the entire Sutro Baths structure. A relative of George Whitney's claims the fire was set to collect the insurance on the unprofitable property.



Polar Palace

Palais de Glace

Tropical Ice Palace

Sutro's

Hollywood Professional School History