Sutro Baths of San Francisco was built by Adolf Sutro, former mayor (1894-1896), near Lands End and the Cliff House at the western most edge of the Richmond District. In the 1890’s it was hailed as the world’s largest indoor swimming facility with seven pools. During high tide, water would flow directly into the six saltwater pools from the ocean,recycling 2 million gallons in an hour. A powerful turbine pump, which was built inside a cave at sea level, could fill the tanks during low tide at the rate of six thousand gallons per minute.
In the early fifties I can remember zooming down one of the seven slides. The thirty swinging-ring-trapezes, the many springboards and the high dive offered additional thrills while the whole time being protected from the biting summer fog. The facilities at Sutro Baths also included a 2,700-seat amphitheater, club rooms for 1100, 517 private dressing rooms, a museum and later an ice skating rink. For a small fee, you could rent one of the available 20,000 swim suits and a towel.
Besides the three and half million board feet of lumber, 100,000 sq. ft. of glass and 600 tons of iron were also used in the making of the baths. Everyone thought the structure was invincible. But time would prove them wrong. Due mainly to high maintenance costs, Sutro Baths was closed in 1964. Soon thereafter, an arson fire finished the job for the wrecking ball. The City never did follow up on the proposed high rise apartments for the site, leaving concrete blocks as the only evidence of a once grand dame.