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the Cliff House, San Francisco

April 23, 2010

Upon my first trip to San Francisco, I saw this postcard:


I immediately wanted to visit the fabulous Cliff House, but the folks I met around town couldn’t point me in the right direction.  Of course eventually I found out that the building had burned to the ground about 100 years earlier…  uggh.   Since then, I’ve collected books and images of the Victorian version (there have been 5 versions of the Cliff House, starting in 1858), and I have continued to wish that I could have visited it during its heyday.  Now there is a modern Cliff House, an ugly concrete structure that sits in the same place and serves dinner, but has none of the allure of the previous architecture.  But it is still grand to sit and enjoy the same old views of Seal Rock, the ships, the beach and the waves.

San_Francisco_PC_Cliff_House_FireThe Victorian Cliff House was built in 1896 after the previous version burned.  Then this version burned in 1907.


Kim and I have set up the San Francisco 49 Mile Ride to stop at the 5th (ugly, modern) revision of the Cliff House a few times.  Here is a photo from Craig Howell of the 2006 ride:


I found this pic at a swap meet a few years ago (a reprint), it hangs above the davenport in our front parlor:


Harper’s Weekly April 30, 1887, of the Cliff House before the Victorian rebuild, showing version #2:

Harpers Weekly - 1887 (3974366668)

A later photo from the same vantage point, showing the Victorian house, which was version #3.


Bird’s eye view of the Beach, Seal Rocks, Cliff House and Sutro Heights.  Copyrighted by W.C. Billinton, Sutro Heights


A fuzzy shot, but check out the reflection of the lightening in the ocean water!

1900 Cliff House

For more info, see this link:

Here are 4 pics from the Cliff House Project:

photo from Bob Holloway




One Comment leave one →
  1. April 27, 2010 8:21 am

    I really love this place, who remember me a similiar place in Biarritz France.
    look at this

    Probably this Summer we’ll make a stop there with the Motorhome…

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