A Photographic Mystery Solved

Due to impending work deadlines and an upcoming vacation, this post is a self-contained aside, and I will pick up Ursula’s UC Berkeley chapter on the first Tuesday in March. Enjoy!

On November 4, 2014, I published several photos from the second photo album, which I had recently discovered. I was unsure of the location where one dramatic photo had been taken, thinking it was possibly Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Thanks to Berkeley-based researcher Maria Brandt, I now know I guessed wrong. I was fascinated to learn from her that the photo below was taken in Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco, in the area now known as Lands End. Created by self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro in 1885, the park today is part of the National Parks Service.

Left to right: Aunts Mathilde and Jeannette, mother Clara, and little Ursula. Golden Gate Park?

Left to right: Aunts Mathilde and Jeannette, mother Clara, and little Ursula in Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco, around 1905 or so

According to the National Parks Service:

“…Sutro intentionally designed the grounds to capture the views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands…Sutro Heights was a fantastic collection of flower beds, forests, elegant walkways, hedge mazes…”

The park also included a platform plaza that overlooked the nearby Cliff House. If you are ever in San Francisco, the present-day Cliff House is worth a visit. Now a restaurant (try the delicious French toast!), it affords close-up and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

The statue in the above photograph (behind Ursula’s aunts) was one of the 200 concrete replicas of Greek and Roman statuary that Sutro imported from Belgium. Over the years, Sutro Heights Park fell into disrepair. After the park joined the National Parks Service in 1976 as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the remaining statues were removed for storage and cataloging, and the Parks Service cast reproductions of them (reproductions of the reproductions!) and re-erected them on the site.

I look forward to visiting Sutro Heights in person next time I’m in San Francisco, and walking where Ursula, her mother and aunts walked before!

Main Gate, Sutro Heights, circa 1900s.  (Source: http://www.sanfranciscodays.com/)

Main Gate, Sutro Heights, circa 1900s.
(Source: http://www.sanfranciscodays.com/)

P.S. The National Parks Service website has a lot of great material on the history of Sutro Heights.

2 thoughts on “A Photographic Mystery Solved

  1. interesting – in the 3 years of living in SF I did not know about the park. It seems to be a perfect setting for Ursula’s family outings.

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