Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Modern Ruin

Like Mackinac's majestic Grand Hotel, San Francisco's Victorian-era Sutro Baths are a relic of a time gone by. But unlike the Grand Hotel, the baths stand in haunted ruin on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
Now part of the National Park Services, the site once housed seven pools of filtered and heated seawater, a museum, restaurants, tropical plants, promenades, and seating for thousands of spectators, all covered by 100,000 square feet of opulent glass.

Built by San Franciscan real estate tycoon Adolph Sutro in 1894, the baths never flourished, despite the millions of dollars he poured into them — adding various amusements and oddities over the decades. Sutro even built a rail line through the Presidio to service the baths and the Cliff House, yet they continued to struggle.
After Sutro died in the 1950s, the site was purchased by another entertainment mogul, who attempted to turn it into an ice skating rink. But the site still didn't turn a profit and, in 1966, a fire turned the baths to ruin.

Today, visitors wander over the ruins as though their the remains of the Romans or  Mayans. Often they wonder what ancient structure once stood on the shore, but in reality, it wasn't all that long ago that Sutro's Glass Palace stood in all its lavish glory.

Listen to the colorful history of the baths turned to ruins on 99% Invisible. Or, read the story in Sutro's Glass Palace, available on Amazon.

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