Thursday, June 21, 2018

Camera Obscura & the Sutro Baths

1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA
On my first trip to San Francisco back in 2011 my aunt took my friend and I to eat at the Cliff House. The food was spectacular, but the original Cliff House and Sutro Baths below are what drew me in. I'm convinced it was the beginning of my love for abandoned things. After we ate lunch we walked to the gift shop, and I fell in love with an illustration of what the Sutro Baths looked like back when they were fully functioning. I'm a sucker for late 1800-early 1900s history so I could not stop thinking about that illustration and how much I wanted it. Eventually, I convinced myself to go back on the last day to buy it because I knew I'd regret it when I did. This became my favorite spot in San Francisco. In 2014 I had a long layover in San Francisco. My aunt asked me where I wanted to it or what I wanted to see and I, of course, said the Cliff House.
On both trips, though, I actually never made it to anything other than the restaurant and gift shop. This time I knew I had to finally go and Megan was totally up for it. We went to Camera Obscura first just because I wanted to take pictures of it. We never intended to go inside especially because it was $3, and I'm super cheap, but I decided to spend it because I knew I'd regret it if I didn't. I'm totally glad I did. Inside there is a 6 foot parabolic focusing table which captures the 360 degree images from a rotating lens in the roof. The technology was based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci, so it is quite old, but hard to believe this is something that existed way before our time. The camera also displays holographic images on the wall which need to be viewed from a distance, something I didn't realize right away. The camera was built by Floyd Jennings in the 1940s for Playland at the Park. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places!
The camera was cool, but I really wanted to finally go down and see the Sutro Bath ruins on this trip. The Sutro Baths were the brain child of Adolf Sutro, an engineer who made millions during the gold rush and one time mayor of San Francisco. He was a German immigrant who arrived in 1850 at just 20 years old. In the 1880s he began obtaining land for a grand bath house. The pools in the bath house were fed water from the Pacific Ocean. The bath house was immensely popular, but the cost of operation was expensive and in 1966 it was listed for demolition before it mysteriously burned down. Sutro also bought the old Cliff House from the original owners in 1881, but it burned down twice. Once in 1894, where it was rebuilt in its famous Victorian style, but they building burned down again in 1907. In 1977, the National Park Service obtained the Cliff House and in 2005 it was remade into its original neoclassical design.
For some reason my mind remembers San Francisco being empty last time I was here. Maybe it was because it was cold and rainy that no one wanted to venture down to the Baths, but I definitely don't remember so many people being there. I don't like being surrounded by people, but we didn't really have a choice. Despite there being so many people I think it kind of puts in perspective how big the Sutro Baths were. It's also neat that you are still allowed to walk on them and explore the area, but be careful about falling in to the dirty standing water. There was also a cave to the right as you walk down the hill that you can walk in. It's nothing spectacular, but its another thing to check out while you're there.
Have you been to Camera Obscura, Sutro Baths, or the Cliff House?


  1. Replies
    1. My absolute favorite place in San Francisco!

  2. I NEED to go to that Camera Obscura SO BADLY!!

    1. You do! And pay the $3 to go inside. It's a little much but I think you're someone who'd appreciate it!


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