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The Cliff House: Celebrating 150 Years

by Lisa Harrington

Built in 1863 by Senator John Buckley and C.C. Butler, the Cliff House was a destination for the wealthy, to enjoy fine food and views. As high society gave way to the hoi poloi, Adolph Sutro, whose estate overlooked it, purchased the Cliff House in 1883, hoping to restore its grandeur and exclusivity. On Christmas Day, 1894, the Cliff House was gutted by fire. Undaunted, Sutro rebuilt it bigger and better, as a French chateau eight stories tall. It burned to the ground again, in 1907. The third Cliff House was built in 1909 by Sutro’s daughter, Dr. Emma Merritt, with support from John Taft and several investors. The most recent restoration was by restaurant owners Dan and Mary Hountalas and the NPS, featuring a 2-story dining room called Sutro’s—a great place to witness the setting sun. The Bistro nearby boasts a casual menu, zinc-topped tables, and a hand-carved bar built for the Paris World’s Fair of 1890.

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The Cliff House, around 1900 (T. Imai/Wikimedia Commons)

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