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Monday, April 30, 2018

Southern California Vol. 21 - Sutro Baths

We live in an age of wonder.  I know it's hard for some people reading that to see the logic behind it.  We get caught up in everything from the political landscape to the number of followers on our Twitter account.  We lose sight of the fact that we're living in an age where cars drive themselves, rockets fly  up to space and return to land perfectly on floating platforms and we can carry a library of books, movies and music in a device barely bigger than one of our own hands.

For instance, would anyone reading this be blown away if a friend told you some guy had just built a giant swimming pool nearby?  

I'm guessing most people would shrug it off.  Hell, all of us know someone who owns or has access to a swimming pool.  It's just not a big deal.

However, if I told you that someone built the world's largest indoor swimming pool at the base of a cliff and that the pool was fed by the ocean to the tune of 1,805,000 gallons, then you might... might be impressed.  

If I told you it consisted of six saltwater pools, one freshwater pool and had swings, slides, diving boards and was outfitted with pumps that could fill the pools even at low tide, you may be a little more "wowed".  

What it I told you it was built 122 years ago?

I'm talking about the Sutro Baths and they were a very, very real thing.  Adolph Sutro, a former mayor of San Francisco, built them in 1896 and if you have even an ounce of wonder left in you, the sheer size of the structure should knock you off your feet.  Here's a quick list of materials used in its construction.

Lumber - 3,500,000 board feet

Iron - 600 tons

Glass - 100,000 square feet

Concrete - 10,000 cubic yards

This was no mere swimming pool or even collection of pools.  It was a spectacle!  It also featured an ice skating rink, a 2,700 seat amphitheater and 517 private dressing rooms for people to change in.  It had a museum on site that housed historical artifacts and stuffed/mounted animals including "Monarch", the grizzly bear who appears on the California state flag.

It was such a big draw that two railroad lines served it.  So what happened to it?

Simply put, it was just too expensive to keep running.  The baths ran from 1896 until the mid-1960's.  All told, that's a pretty solid run when you think about it.  

In 1966, it was in the process of being demolished when it caught fire and burned to the ground.  All that remains are the concrete ruins and they are visible and accessible.  

They're now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco.  Looking at the foundation, you can get a good idea of just how gigantic Adolph Sutro's vision was.

If you're in the San Francisco area and decide to spend time in the National Park there, be sure to swing by and take a look.  When you do, spend a moment thinking of how awesome it must have been even though you live in a time where almost anything is possible.

Let's say you're traveling to San Francisco and you are going to spend a day at the park, why not spend it with a good book?  You can find my book The Wash here at my Amazon Author's page.  

Until next time, stop and take a look around you and marvel at the fact that you just read something beamed to you via invisible waves.

An age of wonders, my friends.  An age of wonders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been very near this place several times, yet completely oblivious to its existence. Perhaps it is time to go out in the wild and carve a mysterious symbol into a large boulder to give the future people something to ponder.