Photo Studio on Sutro Heights : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

One of the visitors of the Cliff House Visitors Center asked me yesterday about an image he owns: His grandfather was photographed in front what he describes as a "painted Cliff House" and he would like to know its location. I seem to recall that at the north end of the parapet platform there was a little house, having been the photo concessionary.

Can you give me details on that, such as name of the photographer, lenght of activity?

-- Wolfgang Schubert (, November 27, 2000


Hi Wolfgang,

The studio was operated by W.C. Billington and was officially called "Sutro Heights Gallery." The building shows up in lots of photos of Sutro Heights and is notable for its oversize 'witches cap' tower.

Not sure when the studio was built or how long Billington operated it, but it first appears in the early 1890s and stood until the razing of the Sutro mansion in 1939-1940.

I'm pretty sure this is where that painted backdrop of the 1896-1907 Cliff House was located. (I've seen another version of this backdrop showing the 1909 Cliff House.) However, another photo concession operated on Point Lobos Blvd. just west of the entrance to the Baths.

We can probably find out more about Billington's years of operation by checking the old City Directories at the Main Library.

-- John Martini (, December 02, 2000.

i want photo studio backdrop detile

-- karthik (, November 06, 2002.

If i hear 1 more thing about Mr. Adolf...

I am going to scream!!!!!!

-- Sean M. Hall (, November 06, 2002.

Billington was my greatgrandfather. I would love to see the photograph you are referring to, if that is possible.

-- Zane Shonforest (, November 29, 2004.

Here's a link to the photo. It's in the collection of the SF History Center.

Perhaps the man sitting in front of the studio is your ancestor?


-- John Martini (, November 30, 2004.

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