Cliff House Project

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This version of the Cliff House shows the original 1863 structure surrounded by additional wings on both sides.


Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection
Photo likely taken sometime after March 9 1888, due to "S.F. Collateral Loan Bank" sign, far right.
According to this ad the business was "Incorporated, March 9th, 1888"



Reverse: "Yours truly as we appeared on the beach at Seal Rock, July 89" (reverse)
Image courtesy of Mary Hountalas



Taber Photo
Note cables between shore and outcrops.  Click here for close-up.
Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection

Cliff House ca1890, A.J. McDonald
Courtesy of the John Martini Collection


Scan from an 8x5"glass negative, likely from the collection of Martin Behrman (based on the CH-35 ID)


"A J McDonald"   "CLIFF HOUSE & SEAL ROCK, S.F."   "No. 5 Market St."
Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection


scan from copy negative


A J McDonald, Photographer (reverse)


Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke Collection


Carleton Watkins


"CLIFF HOUSE 1870" "CH-29"


"High Tide, Ocean Side", Perkins




Courtesy of Frank Mitchell




Click here for reverse


Note the banner visible above the stables (enlarged below)

It wasn't clear what that structure was until the below mage was discovered...

Image from Facebook


Courtesy of Glenn D Koch Collection




After considerable analysis the above photo is believed to date between 1887 (when the canal was built) and Dec 1894 (when the structure was destroyed by fire).  The bridge to Flag Rock is already destroyed.  This image points out structural comparisons.


Courtesy of Frank Mitchell


"2780 Cliff House, San Francisco.  Taber Photo"  "Moxie"


Note the fence signs:  "Damascus Perfume Palace, Phelan Blk", "King B Bitters & Liver Cure"
(click here for photograph reverse)

Analysis by Frank Sternad, 8/18/2013

"Everything about the photo points to the mid-1880s: Sutro has given the Cliff House a new coat of paint, Taber is at 8 Montgomery St., and the only ad I have for the Bitters is 1884 (see below). Archibald Stoddart and his brother James ran their Damascus Perfumery Palace at 826 Market in the Phelan Bldg. Their peak was 1884-85. I've attached a scan of a face powder sample envelope that lists the products and their two locations. They packaged their liquid perfumery in a small (3 to 4 fl oz) amber glass bottle that was heavily embossed."



"Cliff House and Shed" (stables)
by Thomas Houseworth & Co
John Martini estimates the date as 1868 (post expansion) to 1881 (predates Sutro's Norman castle addition to SE corner)
(see: full stereoview; reverse side)


A second photo presumably taken during the same photo shoot
Courtesy of Frank Mitchell



View looking up Cliff Avenue towards "Cliff House Cottage."  Carriage sheds for the Cliff House are at left.
Image courtesy of Grace Winterton, click here for additional photos.








A unique camera angle, as viewed from Flag Rock



Note the small structure where the road leaves the beach.  This is the only photo I've seen that shows it.  Possibly a toll booth?  See:  link  link2
Image courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke


Courtesy of Bob Schlesinger


Photo by Carleton E. Watkins
Courtesy of Bob Schlesinger

If you zoom in on the left structure, you will see what looks like the letters "LS".  John Martini contributes the following... (11/12/2010)

"I came across an 1870s SF newspaper article that explained that "LS" on the front of the Cliff House was a sort of pun. The letters stood for two Latin words (that I now can't remember) that also appeared on the corner of legal documents of the era that translated to "place for the seal" -- referring to the embossed legal seal.  The pun, of course, was that the Cliff House was also the 'place for the seal.'"

"New Railroad to the Cliff" - Daily Alta California - July 2, 1888

Zoe Heimdal: “LS” actually stands for “locus sigilli”, Latin words meaning. “the place for the seal”.

A google search uncovers the following passage from Bret Harte's book "Under the Redwoods" (published 1901), in a story titled "Bohemian Days in San Francisco" (pg 153)...

My Bohemian wanderings were confined to the limits of the city, for the very good reason that there was little elsewhere to go. San Francisco was then bounded on one side by the monotonously restless waters of the bay, and on the other by a stretch of equally restless and monotonously shifting sand dunes as far as the Pacific shore. Two roads penetrated this waste: one to Lone Mountain--the cemetery; the other to the Cliff House--happily described as "an eight-mile drive with a cocktail at the end of it." Nor was the humor entirely confined to this felicitous description. The Cliff House itself, half restaurant, half drinking saloon, fronting the ocean and the Seal Rock, where disporting seals were the chief object of interest, had its own peculiar symbol. The decanters, wine-glasses, and tumblers at the bar were all engraved in old English script with the legal initials "L. S." (Locus Sigilli),-- "the place of the seal."

Daily Alta California - 10 January 1875


"The Merry Little Maiden playing in the Surf, San Francisco, Cal."
Copyright 1895 by B.W. Kilburn




Continent Stereoscopic Company

EXTRA CREDIT to anyone who can identify the structure on the beach, foreground left side.


Courtesy of Frank Mitchell



Cliff House
M.M. Hazeltine, Photographer


Courtesy of Frank Mitchell


"B 1295 View of Cliff House from the Ocean.  Taber, Photo, San Francisco."

Structures identified from above photograph, courtesy of John Martini  10/30/2014
Lower Gate, Stables & Shops, Cliff House Cottage



Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1872
"CALIFORNIA - How to go There and What to See By The Way, by Charles Nordhoff"


This engraving was taken from a page of an old history book, Pecularities of American Cities by Captain Willard Glazier, 1886.  Engravings were common in books during the 19th century, before photos became more economical. The image was scratched into wood or metal and then used to make the print on the paper.

Update: this same engraving also appears in a book titled "The Golden State" by McClellan, published 1872


Drawn by Charles Graham
Harper's Weekly,  April 30 1887


Stoddard, 9-15-1893



This 1893 letterhead shows the existence of JM Wilkin's shell shop.  The later 1896 Cliff House also had a shell shop.
Courtesy of B. Richardson


An 1890c signed original California Watercolor by H. Arding (Born In California 1870),
Shows a blue sky and families enjoying the day at the Cliff House

Courtesy of Kristine Vessey
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Daily Alta California - 9 March 1868


Daily Alta California - 26 April 1868


Daily Alta California - 7 Sept 1868


Advertisement, Sacramento Daily Union - Sept 19, 1868


San Francisco Chronicle - Mar 9, 1871


Pacific Rural Press - 23 Sept 1871