Cliff House Project
A Program of Western Neighborhoods Project

[ Parapet Doors ] parapet ]


Parapet Door

There's a rather mysterious "door" structure on the parapet.  John Martini provided the following information...

"Workers for the National Park Service ‘discovered’ that door in the late 1970s when NPS workers stripped decades of ivy from the parapet wall. We were also curious about it, thinking there might be a sealed up room, so we did an excavation from the surface of the parapet down to the presumed room's location. We dug down so far we actually uncovered the rear of the sealed up doorway. Nothing was there. Our theory is that whatever room might have been there had been demolished by the WPA when they rebuilt the parapet circa 1940 and put in the existing concrete staircase. The room could have been a wine cellar, but unlikely due to the distance from Sutro’s residence. My theory? It had a more prosaic use, probably a tool shed or gardeners’ storeroom."  - John A. Martini  (8/20/2020)


Image courtesy of John Ringelmann


1889c Sutro parapet showing cellar door (eBay image)


1913 Sanborn, Sutro Heights detail


1936 Proposed improvements to Sutro Heights map WPA overlay 10-27-1936 new wall overlay


There was at least one other door in the parapet, this time facing to the east onto the Old Grove lawn.
It’s in the background of this circa 1939 photo of a Grecian dancer posing on a stag statue.  It was demolished
by WPA.


1940c Sutro Heights Grecian dancers 1940c (Blaisdell)


This map shows the angle of view of the 2nd door
1936 Proposed improvements to Sutro Heights map, 10-27-1936



San Francisco Examiner, 2 Oct 1940
The WPA work was preparatory for constructing a museum building on top of the parapet. Supposedly a memorial to Adolph Sutro, it’s main purpose was
to house a series of dioramas on SF history that had been displayed at the 1939-1940 world’s fair on Treasure Island.


Digging for wine inside Sutro Heights
San Francisco Chronicle - 12-29-1979


Sutro Heights parapet


Sutro Heights_parapet stairs, built by WPA
25 Jun 2004