The 21st Century Cliff House
Perched on spectacular cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Cliff House is one of the crown jewels of San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The GGNRA is the largest urban park west of the Mississippi River and offers a wide array of activities. Currently the GGNRA is restoring the coastal walkways and paths that lead to the Cliff House and overlook both the bay and the Pacific Ocean.
The restoration of the Cliff House was a joint undertaking of restaurant owners, Dan and Mary Hountalas, and the National Park Service. The 1909 building was extensively renovated to restore the original neoclassical architecture, and some of the Cliff House history can be seen in the more than 200 autographed pictures of dignitaries and movie stars on display for public viewing.
The new Sutro Wing houses an amazing two-story dining room with stunning panoramic ocean views. The ceiling of steel beams recalls the Sutro Baths architecture, establishing a connection between the past and the present. Skylights and grand picture windows accentuate natural light in all public spaces; spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean are emphasized in both the neoclassical design of the restored 1909 structure and the soaring modernist space of the new wing.
Dan and Mary Hountalas have been the proprietors of the Cliff House for 35 years. Dan Hountalas notes that the renovation unveiled discoveries including a marble staircase and part of the original carriage road from 1914, which is now a walkway around the property. Natural materials—concrete, copper, slate, and glass—were used to blend the new building into the scenic coastline. The world famous Cliff House with its long and colorful history remains a favorite for both locals and tourists alike.