Re: New Looks for WNP/Outsidelands Website

09/19/17 - posted by John A Martini

One of my favorite "Westside What Ifs" focuses on Adolph Sutro's 1896 Victorian/Chateau Cliff House.

What if it had survived until today instead of burning spectacularly in 1907? How would its ornate gingerbread finials, turrets and gables have survived the changing architectural tastes over the last 11 decades?

My suspicion is that the structure would have been remodeled repeatedly times to keep it "modern," much as the old 1886 Ocean Beach Pavilion was repeatedly remodeled until it was essentially unrecognizable. Sutro's Cliff House conceivably would have been stripped of most ornamentation and covered with asbestos siding, like so many Victorians in the Mission, leaving current generations to speculate on what was buried underneath the siding and bemoaning the "remuddeling" efforts.

(This is a good time to bear in mind what the Whitneys did to the present-day Cliff House in 1949-1950, scabbing on an additional story and pushing the facade streetward, in the process engulfing the 1909 structure on three sides.

I once showed a modern architect the blueprints for the 1896 Cliff House, now at the Park Archive. He pointed out in horror it had no steel framing and commented to the effect, "You should be glad it burned down. If it was still around you'd spend the entire park budget keeping it from collapsing into the Pacific."

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