In 1896, Adolph Sutro built Cliff House, a seven story Victorian Chateau, called by some “the Gingerbread Palace”, below his estate on the bluffs of Sutro Heights. It was the place to be! It had a restaurant, nightly music, amazing views of the ocean, and a few parlors for smoking and drinking. The Cliff House survived the 1906 earthquake with little damage but burned to the ground on the evening of September 7, 1907.
From an advertising brochure by Taber Photography, published in San Francisco in 1895, entitled “Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Sutro Heights”…
Looking from the ocean, the building consists of four stories and an attic. The lowest one is devoted to the polishing of shells, manufacture of curios, and the electric plant for the lighting of the house and the running of the elevator, and contains sleeping rooms for the necessary attendants. On the second floor refreshments will be sold at the price of city restaurants. There are twenty dining rooms on this floor, also shell and curios rooms. The third floor doors can be enlarged or diminished at pleasure. The attic is used chiefly as a means of approach to the rooms in the turrets, three of them fitted up as private dining rooms, and the fourth containing the largest camera obscura west of Chicago. A verandah, 16 feet wide, open at the fourth but enclosed by glass on the lower three floors, runs around the ocean side of the Cliff House.
The Cliff House looks as though it could fall into the ocean at any second. It looks heavy and larger than necessary. All of the pictures look as though the house is photoshopped in because the Cliff House looks so out of place.
Note the style of dress on the beach. Men are in full suits and ties with top hats and dress shoes sitting in the sand. Women are in dresses with large hats and shoes, also in the sand. Amazing.
Check out the Cliff House Project for a lot of information including a timeline, photos, advertisements detailing the Cliff House, etc.