The Incendiary History of San Francisco’s Cliff House

Ken of This House recounts the long and incendiary history behind the iconic Cliff House that sits above the shores of Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

The Cliff House was possibly the most iconic Victorian building to ever grace the Pacific Coast, but what happened to it?

The Cliff House was built in 1863, damaged by fire in 1884, and fully engulfed by flames in 1894. The house, which belonged to Adolf Sutro, was rebuilt and stood standing until burned down again in 1907. This phoenix of a structure went through a number of changes and through a number of hands until it was sold to the National Park Service. The NPS kept the Cliff House open to the public until sadly closing its doors forever in 2020.

In 1937 George and Leo Whitney  purchased the Cliff House to complement their Playland at the Beach attraction nearby and  extensively remodeled it into an American  roadhouse. The building was acquired by the  National Park service in 1977 and became part  of the Golden gate National Recreation Area. …in 2003 as part  of an extensive renovation many of Whitney’s additions were removed and the building was  restored to its 1909 appearance …the concessionaires of  the Cliff House reported on December 13th  2020 that they would be closing their doors

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.