Friday, November 6, 2009

San Francisco Cliff House Burns

The first Cliff House was built in 1863 and burned down in 1894. It was replaced by the much grander Victorian Cliff House shown here. The Victorian Cliff House survived the 1906 earthquake, but burned down in 1907. The current Cliff House more closely resembles the original simple building than the grand one shown on this postcard.

The message on this card reads:
San Francisco Sept. 26, 1911
Dear Irene. I didn't write for a long time so I thought I would write. How do you like your new shoes. Julia Barr had a party and I wish my little darling was there. I want you to get a fat girl. Drink lots of milk. Grandma wants to know how her little lovie dear is. Aunt May xxxxx

Here's a postcard showing the Cliff House as it was rebuilt in 1909:

Click here to visit the Cliff House website, which has a more detailed history and lots of pictures.


  1. Twice the place burned down! I'm not surprised it was rebuilt each time, with such a dramatic setting.

    Funnily, the grand Victorian building bears some resemblance to the hotels on my postcard today. The same era of course.

  2. What a dramatic postcard. Such incredible flames! Looking at the enlarged view I can see someone standing on the back patio very close to the fire. Happy PFF!

  3. Great card. I also like views of the same place or building from different eras, but flames? Where'd you find it?

    Also, at what resolution are you scanning your cards, and what are doing to get them down to under 50KB?

  4. Wow what wonderful postcards. And the history behind it. Sounds jinxed to me. Not sure I would of wanted to stay there after the 2nd fire.

  5. My first Postcard Friendship Friday, and you post a card from a location not 2 miles from where I live!

  6. the flames in the postcard are dramatic, almost shocking. And the rebuilt one is such a let down.
    the view is fantastic however.

  7. That postcard is just

  8. While I hate to see great old buildings burn down, you have to admit, that building at that location was an architectural abomination. I can't think of a worse location for it - it doesn't even fit on the cliff, they had to support the corner. If it wasn’t real I’d have thought it was a Photoshop disaster. Thank goodness Frank Lloyd Wright eventually came along.

  9. wow! this card is absolutely stunning...i'm having the equivalent of postcard stendhal syndrome!!
    looking at the flames closely it looks like it's a modified earlier view where the flames and some of the onlookers have been added later.

  10. The 1909 Cliff House looked very Greek Renaissance. Beautiful in its simplicity! Thanks for visiting my PFF post! :)

  11. It strikes me as funny that a postcard was made of a burning building. It's sort of like The Enquirer of postcards.

  12. Rivercontinua,
    To answer your questions, I usually scan at 300 or 400 dpi. Making them small is not my job though; Google does that.

    As for the architecture of the Cliff House, you're absolutely right that it didn't fit. I'm sure Frank Lloyd Wright would have designed something that fit the site, maybe like his butterfly house in Carmel, but more spectacular. But of course his house would have had structural problems and the diners would have been wet whenever it rained.

    The old Cliff House created a craggy cliff of its own, and although it overwhelmed the existing landscape, the slope there is really nothing spectacular on its own. The old Cliff House looked like it was perched precariously, but I prefer it to the new square box any day.

  13. Wow. I've never actually seen a postcard of a fire. It was a memorable moment, I'm sure.



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