Sutro Heights History

historic image of vistors in horse-drawn carriage at Sutro Height
Sutro Heights, circa 1890



In 1885, self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro created the Sutro Heights Park, an elegant and formal public garden that covered over twenty acres in the area now known as Lands End. Inspired by the rugged beauty and incredible scenery, Sutro intentionally designed the grounds to capture the views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands.

Adolph Sutro planned his park on a grand scale. Sutro Heights was a fantastic collection of flower beds, forests, elegant wide walkways, hedge mazes and "parterres" (a popular Victorian landscape feature where flowers and bushes were carefully trimmed into shapes of names or designs). Builders constructed an observation platform plaza that overlooked the Cliff House as well as the Dolce far Niente balcony, a long terrace-like structure on the cliff overlooking Ocean Beach. To provide garden decorations, he imported over 200 concrete replicas of Greek and Roman statuary from Belgium, with the intent to provide examples of European culture to his San Francisco visitors. The sculptures, along with rustic benches, chairs and tables were carefully placed throughout the grounds. The garden contained many buildings ranging from simple garden sheds to an elaborate glass-paned conservatory. To keep the grounds in excellent condition, Sutro maintained a full-time staff of 17 gardeners, machinist and drivers.

historic image of Sutro Heights front entrance
Front public entrance of Sutro Heights, flanked by reclining lion statues; circa 1885.


historic image of Sutro Heights decorative pathway
One the many decorative pathways throughout the garden, showing the wide variety of plants; circa 1890


historic image of observation plaza over Cliff House
The observation plaza overlooking the Cliff House; circa April 1907



Please visit the Plan Your Visit Lands End page to learn more visitor information.

Please visit the History and Culture Lands End page to learn more about the history of the overall site.

For more in-depth information, please down load the History and Significance of Adolph Sutro Historic District from the National Register Nomination Form (NPS, 2000) (pdf file, 120 kb)

colored map of Lands End

Vestiges of Sutro Heights

This digital guidebook highlights stories, landscapes, events, artifacts and geology of Sutro Heights.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
201 Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123


United States Park Police Dispatch: Non-Emergency: 415-561-5505 Emergency: 415-561-5656

Contact Us