Our “My Spot” series shares personal experiences with special places in California.
For Josh Elmore, San Francisco’s Sutro Baths holds a special place in his heart.
“I took my now, long-term girlfriend on our first date to the Sutro Baths,” he says. “It was after a long day. We had gone to a Giants game, to a karaoke bar for a friend’s birthday and then, I thought the perfect place to top off the night would be the Sutro Baths.”
Built in 1896 by former San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, the baths once held seven swimming pools, five of them heated. It also housed a museum containing Egyptian mummies, as well as an ice skating rink, multiple swings, trampolines and slides.
Yet, what was once the largest indoor pool house in the world is a relic, and its remains continue to attract tourists and locals alike.
“Sutro Baths are at the very west end of San Francisco,” the 29 year-old Ph.D. student says. “You can walk out on the remains of the buildings, so the footings from the original buildings are still standing. There’s some skeletons of concrete where you can see where the buildings once stood.”
Financial troubles caused the baths to be closed down and sold to developers in 1964. High-rise apartments were set to be constructed in their place, but during demolition a fire destroyed what remained. Plans for the apartments were soon scraped, and in 1973 the National Park Service purchased the site.
The Sutro Baths are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where visitors like Elmore can walk among the ruins. He says the wonders of the site keep him coming back to explore.
“It’s one of the places, one of the many places that when you first come to it, you feel like you’ve stumbled upon some hidden treasure that nobody else has been or seen before ” Elmore says.
No experience at the baths is the same, he says, it can vary day by day.
“It depends on the weather, because you could be going there and the weather will put you a little on edge you know. If the waves are crashing really hard then it’s more of a feeling that a tsunami might hit. You know it really puts you in the throes of nature.”