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Adolph Sutro?s breathtaking Cliff House on San Francisco?s Ocean Beach was a monument to Gilded Age excess. Towering eight stories above the sea, the Cliff House opened in 1896 and featured a large public dining room, several private dining rooms, a bar, a ballroom and art galleries. Specially constructed streetcar lines brought droves of people to marvel at what one detractor called ?a thing of complicated and amazing ugliness.? The Cliff House survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake with only minor damage, but it burned to the ground the following year while undergoing renovations.

Photo: National Archives


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