In 1881, Adolf Sutro purchased 22 acres of undeveloped land at the edge of the city, which included a promontory overlooking the Cliff House and Seal Rocks with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Mount Tamalpais, and the Golden Gate. Taking advantage of the views, Sutro turned this property into Sutro Heights, an elaborate public garden that was filled with decorated flower beds, statues, forests and vista points. Sutro built his home on a rocky ledge overlooking the Cliff House and Seal Rocks just south of Point Lobos and north of Ocean Beach. The grounds consisted of a spacious turreted mansion, a carriage house and out buildings set in expansive gardens. The estate dominated the area. By 1883, Sutro opened his gardens to the public and allowed strolling the grounds for the donation of a dime. That small fee helped to pay the fifteen gardeners he employed to maintain the grounds. Adolph Sutro died in 1898, land rich but cash poor following his frustrating tenure as Mayor of San Francisco. His daughter Emma lived on the estate at Sutro Heights until her death in 1938.
we saw her
in the spaces beneath the bark
in the crashing waves
in the bubbles of light
she reached to us,
like light reaches for darkness
like the past reaches for the now...