The shifting fortunes of San Francisco’s legendary Cliff House, from raucous seaside roadhouse to fanciful Victorian palace to world-renowned urban destination, are celebrated in this comprehensive illustrated history.
The story of San Francisco’s Cliff House begins in 1863 with a modest white clapboard building perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the Pacific. Little more than three decades later, following a devastating fire, visionary millionaire Adolph Sutro oversaw construction of an imposing Victorian edifice on the same site. His 1896 “gingerbread palace” drew everyone to its doorstep, from working-class families to the city’s social elite to three U.S. presidents. That grand structure withstood the great earthquake of 1906, but burned to the ground a year later. Sutro’s oldest daughter, Emma Sutro Merritt, immediately set to work on a new Cliff House, which opened in 1909.
In the century since then, the Cliff House has survived a handful of destructive storms, two major earthquakes, three nearby fires, two closures, several facelifts, the swinging sixties, the not-so-swinging seventies, and the often grindingly slow decisions of government. Despite these and other challenges, today’s Cliff House, now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is enjoying a renaissance following a two-year, multimillion-dollar restoration. This lavishly illustrated volume chronicles the fortunes of the legendary landmark and the people associated with it–a colorful story that parallels both the history and the irrepressible spirit of the city of San Francisco.
About the Author
MARY GERMAIN HOUNTALAS has been operating the Cliff House in partnership with her husband, Dan Hountalas, since 1973. Over the years, she has become a serious historian of the building and its environs and a dedicated collector of countless artifacts associated with it, including vintage photographs, postcards, menus, and other memorabilia from every era. She resides in Sausalito, California.
SHARON SILVA is a freelance editor and writer living in San Francisco, California.
Praise for The San Francisco Cliff House…
“There are certain Bay Area landmarks that mean so much to so many. And one of the most special must surely be the Cliff House in San Francisco. A new work, ‘The San Francisco Cliff House’…is a centennial celebration of this spectacular and historic edifice…. I was spellbound with the many fascinating photographs. And I was nothing short of ecstatic when I saw several reproductions of early postcards I have in my personal collection. What sent me over the edge, however, was seeing recipes for restaurant favorites like Crab Louis. I just wanted to jump in my car and head to the shrine for an all-day picnic.”
—San Jose Mercury News
“a lively text.”
—San Francisco Chronicle