At the turn of the 20th century, the wealthy former mayor San Francisco opened an elaborate pleasure complex at the far western end of the peninsula. As with many of the delights featured at the Musée Mécanique, the Sutro Baths represented a cultural shift – the dawning of an era where leisure was accessible to more than just society’s upper crust. The complex went through several incarnations until they were demolished in 1966. In 1980, the entire property was incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the Baths are now part of a complex of parks that wraps around the western tip of the peninsula.
After breakfast at Blue Bottle, we hopped on the Geary bus and took it allllllll the way west, then spent an hour or two of an incredibly beautiful day climbing around and taking photos. Exploring the Sutro Baths is like climbing through the pieces of a forgotten time. You can’t quite picture from the ruins what the place was like in its heyday – it has in many ways been reclaimed by the elements. Say what you will about ruins porn, but this is somewhat different than the exploitative way that ruined buildings are used as societal commentary in cities like Detroit. This ruin feels deliberate, not sad, and like it is curiously in harmony with the crashing waves.
If you go:
Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, California 94121
Take the 38 Geary bus. You’ll be on it for what seems like forever, but for $2, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get out to the baths. Bring a picnic lunch or at least a water bottle and snacks, as you’ll probably get thirsty and maybe hungry from all the walking around.