The Cliff House of San Francisco

Perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking Ocean Beach in San Francisco, is one of California’s oldest restaurants, famous for its panoramic views. The Cliff House was built in 1909, but it wasn’t the first one to be built. The original Cliff House was constructed in 1863 by millionaire Adolph Sutro, who later became mayor of San Francisco. On Christmas Day in 1894, a fire broke out and gutted the entire wood-framed building. Within two years, Sutro had built the second Cliff House (pictured above) and it was even more spectacular. The 7-story Victorian castle, equipped with turrets, decorative spires and an observation tower, had several private dining rooms and bars, a large art gallery, a gem exhibit, a photo gallery, and an open-air veranda on the upper floors. The new Cliff House — dubbed “The Gingerbread Palace” — became the most photographed house in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the restaurant’s existence was short-lived. Just 11 years later, in 1907, another fire burned the building to the ground. The current Cliff House is the third version and was built by Sutro’s daughter, Emma Sutro Merritt. Because of the restaurant’s history with fires, the new building was built with fire-resistant, steel-reinforced concrete. In 1977, the National Park Service acquired the property and it become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 


The Gingerbread Palace

The current Cliff House