Built in 1896, it is located near the Cliff House, Seal Rocks, and Sutro Heights Park. The facility burned down in June 1966 and is now in ruins within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Sutro Historic District.
On March 14, 1896, the Sutro Baths were opened to the public as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. The baths were built on the western side of San Francisco by wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco (1894-1896) Adolph Sutro.
The structure was situated in a small beach inlet below the Cliff House, also owned by Adolph Sutro at the time. Both the Cliff House and the former baths site are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, operated by the United States National Park Service. The baths struggled for years, mostly due to the very high operating and maintenance costs. Eventually, the baths were converted into an ice skating rink until 1964 when the property was sold to developers for a planned high-rise apartment complex.
A fire in 1966 destroyed the building while it was in the process of being demolished. All that remains of the site are concrete walls, blocked-off stairs and passageways, and a tunnel with a deep crevice in the middle. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson. Shortly afterwards, the developers left San Francisco and claimed insurance money.
The following statistics are from a 1912 article written by J. E. Van Hoosear of Pacific Gas and Electric. Materials used in the structure included 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) of glass, 600 tons of iron, 3,500,000 board feet (8,300 m3) of lumber, and 10,000 cu yd (7,600 m3) of concrete.
During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the nearby ocean, recycling the two million US gallons (7,600 m³) of water in about an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on from a control room and could fill the tanks at a rate of 6,000 US gallons a minute (380 L/s), recycling all the water in five hours.
The baths were once served by two rail lines. The Ferries and Cliff House Railroad ran along the cliffs of Lands End overlooking the Golden Gate. The route ran from the baths to a terminal at California Street and Central Avenue, now Presidio Avenue. The second line was the Sutro Railroad, which ran electric trolleys to Golden Gate Park and downtown San Francisco. Both lines were later taken over by the Market Street Railway.