Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--The Cliff House, San Francisco, California

Nothing I could write to tell you about this historic place could come close to the wonders of The Cliff House official website. Do not skip the marvelous intro! As the intro plays you'll see it's easy to define this postcard as being The Cliff House of the 1950s. Really, the website depicts a slice of American history at its most fascinating.

After the intro, you can obtain complete background information by clicking on the History tab at the top of the page. This history section contains remarkable info about the various incarnations of The Cliff House (including two destructions by fire) that are separated into four categories: 1863, 1896, 1909, and Today.

The 1863 category begins:
The first Cliff House was a modest structure built in 1863 by Senator John Buckley and C. C. Butler. Captain Junius Foster eventually leased the Cliff House Restaurant from C. C. Butler and under his management wealthy San Franciscans flocked to the coast to enjoy the unique restaurant and wonderful views. The guest register bore the names of three U.S. presidents as well as prominent San Francisco families such as the Hearsts, Stanfords, and Crockers, who would drive their carriages out to Ocean Beach for horse racing and recreation.

.....and the Today category introduces:

The 21st Century Cliff House

The 21st century Cliff HousePerched on spectacular cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Cliff House is one of the crown jewels of San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The GGNRA is the largest urban park west of the Mississippi River and offers a wide array of activities. Currently the GGNRA is restoring the coastal walkways and paths that lead to the Cliff House and overlook both the bay and the Pacific Ocean.

I liked the Ken Burns-type presentation of this video about the Victorian Cliff House, built by Adolph Sutro after the first Cliff House burned down.

This informational video is about Adolph Sutro and his Sutro Baths, and features unique early Edison films.

Described by the videographer:

This short video is about Adolph Sutro, a self-made millionaire and former mayor of San Francisco created the Sutro Baths, a public bathhouse a museum.

Video contains:

1. a brief biography of Adolph Sutro
2. a short film of the gigantic slide and bathers at the Sutro Baths.
3. a short film of the Leander sisters dancing on a platform over one of the swim tanks.
4. a short film of one of the two trains that
transport passengers to the Baths.
5. How seawater is transported into the swim tanks.
6. Eric Black exploring the Baths.
Photo and film credits and permissions:
Eric Black
Louis Vincent provided by Peggy Vincent
San Francisco Museum
Early Edison Films, Library of Congress
Historical American Building Survey
Music: Pinnacle Studio, Pinnacle Systems, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Exceleste


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

What an amazing building!

It would be great to be driving along the coastal road on a summers day and come across that place: just pull into the parking lot and get a coffee and look at the view.

Though i'm always oddly disappointed when i buy a coffee that Phoebe Bouffet isn't sat in the window singing her songs...we can always hope :)

Hattie said...

I loved the Cliff House. The Camera Obscura was so fascinating. They had player pianos and mechanical fortune tellers. I even swam once in the Sutro Baths, a very beautiful place. This was in the 40's and 50's.
It was so turn of the 20th Century, and that has remained a fascinating period to me.

Looking to the Stars said...

This is so cool, I love the pics, it reminds me of "then" and "now".
What a neat place! Thank you for sharing :)

Lydia said...

@Pixies- It is indeed quite lovely, always has been. I'd love to see the remodeled version.
Phoebe's best song was Smelly Cat ^,^

@Hattie- You sure have had an interesting life. You're the first person I've ever known who swam at Sutro Baths. The pictures are SO evocative.
When I was a little thing we ate at the Cliff House when we visited my grandmother in the Bay Area. I have a feeling that's when this postcard was purchased...
I too have a fascination with the turn of the 20th Century. One of my favorite books is Dreamland, by Michael Lesy (the front cover features the Victorian Cliff House).

@Looking to the Stars- It certainly is a great look at then and now, as you mentioned. :)

dmarks said...

I'm sure the GGNRA is bigger and nicer since they added the Presidio to it.

I've done some Presidio research as part of a future postcard-related blog post.

Lydia said...

@dmarks- I will look forward to that post. Is the Presidio where the Naval Yard is? My (deceased) uncle was a Captain in the Navy and I remember he talked a lot about the Presidio.....

Jennifer said...

My main association with the Cliff House is from my restaurant internship at Greens in San Francisco (it was very brief, just four weeks, and then I headed back to DC). I'd just found out I was pregnant. My mother visited at the end of my stay and we took the bus to beach and then walked to the Cliff House for lunch. This was very much an in between time for me and everything was a little surreal.

I'll have to come back and look at the films. I love the things you find, lydia.

Lydia said...

@Jennifer- That "in-between" time of yours seems surreal from your descriptions. There's something about that area that seems to me to not be the best place to be during a time of transition. I saw a photo at your Facebook with you in chef garb and I need to check that out!



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