Sutro Baths Anniversary Reminder of Water Innovation. Sharon Kleyne Acknowledges Sutro Baths Water Infrastructure.
Water, as most of us know, works with the sun to create all life on this planet. Most would also acknowledge that we’re in the midst of a global water crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 65 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. Scientists and researchers like Sharon Kleyne, founder and director of Bio-Logic Aqua® Research Water Life Science®, are also warning people that we’re losing too much fresh water (rain) to the oceans.
Yet, there’s another water use that benefits the public’s health and that is recreation. That’s why Kleyne, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water, Global Climate Change and Your Health on Voice of America, took a few moments recently to remember fondly the grand opening of the ornate and useful Sutro Baths in San Francisco on March 14th, 1896.
At the time, Sutro Baths was the largest indoor swimming pool ever opened. Built by the entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro, the Baths filled a small inlet below the Cliff House. Now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area administered by the U.S. National Parks service, the Baths closed in 1966 and a fire shortly afterwards (officials ruled arson—the developer abruptly left San Francisco and claimed the insurance money) destroyed the remaining buildings. Today, all that’s left of Sutro Baths are walls of damp and musty concrete, stairs and passageways that are blocked off and a tunnel with a deep crevice in the middle.
“Yet, in its prime,” said Sharon Kleyne, “Sutro Baths was an engineering marvel, a perfect example of new water infrastructure.” J. E. Van Hoosear’s article in 1912 identified the materials used in the vast structure. They included 100,000 square feet of glass, 600 tons of iron, 3,500,000 board feet of lumber and 10,000 cubic yards of concrete. At high tides, water flowed directly into pools from the nearby ocean, recycling 2 million gallons of water in an hour. At low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, which had been built at sea level inside a cave, could fill the tanks as a rate of 6,000 gallons of water a minute, thus recycling all of the water in five hours.
While in operation, Sutro Baths was serviced by the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, which ran along the cliffs of Lands End overlooking the Golden Gate. This rail line carried bathers from the Baths to a terminal at California Street and Central Avenue (now Presidio Avenue).
“The materials that went into construction of Sutro Baths is impressive, but just the water recycling capacity alone,” said Kleyne, “was a brilliant feat of engineering; it’s still a model we can study and learn from as we develop more efficient ways to reclaim water from our oceans.”