Friday, February 11, 2011

The Cliff House.


The first Cliff House was a modest structure built in 1863 by Senator John Buckley and C. C. Butler.  Wealthy San Franciscans flocked to the new restaurant to enjoy fine dining and coastal 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.


High society locals abandon the Cliff House, although it remained a favorite attraction for tourists and the less wealthy. The Cliff House became known for scandalous behavior, which greatly disturbed the mayor of San Francisco, Adoph Sutro, who had built his estate at Sutro Heights overlooking the Cliff House.


Adoph Sutro purchases the Cliff House and tries to "clear out the riff raff and bring back the local families."


A chimney fire destroys The Cliff House on Christmas Day.


Adolph Sutro spends $75,000 to rebuild and furnish the Cliff House in grandiose style. Fashioned after a French chateau, the second Cliff House opened in February and boasted eight stories, four spires, and an observation tower 200 feet above sea level. 

It served as an elegant site for dining, dancing, and entertainment. The third floor held a photo gallery, reception room, and multiple parlors with beautiful panoramic views. The second floor held 20 private lunchrooms, an art gallery, and a gem exhibit. At ground level, there was a large dining room, parlor, bar, numerous private dining rooms, and the kitchens.

Visited by U.S. presidents, William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as many other famous citizens of the world, the Cliff House remained a favorite of the local population. 


On September 7, 1907, the most beautiful of all Cliff Houses burned to its foundation.  The Cliff House had survived the 1906 earthquake only to perish in a raging fire that destroyed it in less than two hours. 


Dr. Emma Merritt, daughter of Adolph Sutro, along with a group of investors rebuilt the Cliff House on behalf of the Sutro estate at a cost of $75,000.  Neoclassical in design, it carried on the tradition of sumptuous dining and great entertainment.


Due to prohibition, the Cliff House lacked its previous draw.  The Cliff House shut down all operations in 1925.


The Cliff House was extensively remodeled and reopened in August of 1938, under it's new owners, George and Leo Whitney, the owners of Playland.


The Golden Gate National Recreation Area acquires the Cliff House in 1977 and undergoes an extensive renovation to restore the original neoclassical architecture of it's 1909 appearance. The restoration of the Cliff House was a joint undertaking of restaurant owners, Dan and Mary Hountalas, and the National Park Service.


ashleyallisonlindner said...

This is such a creative blog idea, I got very excited when I saw this specific post. I am currently in Professor Provenzano's BECA 562 class, where I am producing a fifteen minute historical documentary on the Sutro Baths. The Baths were directly next to the Cliffhouse, and originally, Adolph Sutro owned them both. I am loving this process because I am meeting so many intelligent people and finding out so many unbelievably cool facts about the Baths that I never knew. The Cliffhouse is such a beautiful restaurant, perfectly located, and elegant as ever. I absolutely love dining there. The pictures that you posted were wonderful! I can't wait to read more of your posts!

A.Mendoza said...

"The Cliffhouse" delivers on the "Cliffhouse." My grandparents use to get all dressed up and go here for their dates as a married couple. I too eventually took a future girlfriend here on our first date. This location has a ton of history and is a true landmark of San Francisco. The Cliffhouse has been a part of many many people's lives. I was surprised how well you scripted your words and posted your pictures- very professional. Well done.

KC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KC said...

I live in Park Merced, and I always walk my dog to the Cliff House. It's great to take the scenic route from the Legion and then turn around the bend...the Cliff House in all it's glory. My friend, a native San Franciscan, said that she remembers there use to be a kitchy museum but it was taken out. It's a historical landmark right? The pictures of the Cliff House over time was the best.It was informative and interesting to know this tidbit of San Francisco history. Looking forward to more

EmilyB said...

I love this history! I've heard bits and pieces of its story through word-of-mouth, but this is very descriptive! The timeline is a great format, and the original photos enhance it even more! The Cliffhouse is such a cool spot, and I'm exciting to learn more about other SF landmarks! I like that I would be able to search different landmarks in your blog and read all about the histories!

Darth Nerd said...

I don't see what the big deal about this building is. Firstly, the name is just silly. I mean, they went out of their way to put the word "cliff" in the name (which accurately describes the buildings's location in a specific way) only to ruin the name by adding the word "house" when a more accurate word would have been "restaurant." Talk about serious inconsistency.

Secondly, if building an establishment on a cliff wasn't dumb enough, they had the nerve to rebuild it after TWO, count it, TWO instances of the building burning to the ground. I'm sorry, but if your restaurant burns down twice in a relatively short period of time that is God's way of saying that he doesn't want you to open a restaurant.

And finally, I've been to this place and I did not see any Presidents. False advertising! You'd think they would have at least kept the dead ones as a souvenir. Also, I asked every employee there and not a single one of them was named "Cliff." C'mon, guys! At least do it for the joke. Needless to say, my trip here was a huge disappointment.

Dylan said...

What an interesting blog idea. I've seen and passed by the Cliff House many times, and was not aware of the extensive history it had. Some pretty influential people sat at those tables before they burned down not once but twice. I'm looking forward to your other posts, and finding out more history about this great city. Also the pictures supplement the information well.

Rex_Mole said...

Interesting blog idea. I like how you researched the history behind the cliffhouse. It was built in the 19th century and is currently a historic land mark. Also, the pictures helped explaining the story. Good luck finding resources for future landmarks around the city.