The Amazing Sutro Bath Ruins

Not many people are aware of the Suto Baths, but they were a magnificent display of wealth and architecture during the late 1800’s.

My family spent the entire day Saturday combing several beaches in the steady rain; but rain never stops us – many times we find our greatest treasures when we’re soaked through and through.

Our last stop was the Sutro Baths and the rain had finally let up to a heavy mist, so everything was bright green and beautiful!

The Sutro “baths” were created by Adolph Sutro on the rocky cliffs of San Francisco in 1896 and they were easily given the title of the world’s largest “indoor” swimming pools. A visitor to the baths could choose from seven different swimming pools; one fresh water pool and six salt water pools. The largest of the pools had to be monitored by life-guards utilizing a canoe.

But that’s not all Adolph Sutro had in store for his visitors; there was also a museum, a concert hall with seating for 8,000, and an ice skating rink – pretty impressive for 1896! From the photos, you can see how rough and untamed the Pacific is all around San Francisco. It was no different in 1896, so at high tide, water would flow directly into the pools from the ocean. Adolph had a powerful turbine pump built into the cave (photo below) so that during low tide he could fill the pools at 6,000 gallons per minute, completely recycling the pools in 5 hours!

Although The Sutro Baths facility struggled for years – predominantly due to the high cost of maintenance and upkeep, it remained at the site for many years until it burned to the ground in 1996; the ruins are now a part of the Golden Gate Park Services.

The final picture is an artist’s rendering of the Sutro Baths during their glory days, courtesy of the San Francisco Library.