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
"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 Record Union - May 19 1882
"locus sigillum - the Place of the Seal, as Charley Webb once
facetiously called the Cliff House"
(full article) (page