Families split days between the ice rink and the salt-water pools, filled by the high tide. Kids dropped pennies in arcade games or lined up at the slide. And a series of museums housed mummies, collectables and torture devices. This wasn't Coney Island or Disneyland. This was San Francisco's own Sutro Baths.
"It was a complete weekend spot for families," said Tom Wyrsch, the filmmaker behind the new documentary Sutro's: The Palace at Land's End, in an interview with KQED. In the film, Wyrsch explored the strange history of the baths, and the eccentric man behind it: Aldolph Sutro. "They [the Sutro Baths] had a mummy museum in there they had a torture museum [...] And then in 1937 they built the ice skate rink," he continued. "It really was a recreation place for families to go beyond just swimming."
Today, the nearly mythological Sutro Baths are known only as the eerie ruins at Land's End. But from 1896 to 1963, the baths were home to seven pools (one freshwater and six seawater), an ice rink, several restaurants, a series of museums, 500 dressing rooms, slides, swings and enough childhood diversions to make any family cancel a trip to Anaheim. After two fires in 1963 and 1966, the foundation is all that remains. But come this Friday, San Francisco moviegoers can relive the magic of the early 1900s when Wyrsch's movie hits local theaters.
Check out the preview below for Sutro's: The Palace at Land's End before it premieres this Friday