clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lurline Pier Brought Saltwater Swimming to the Masses

New, 4 comments

Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed highlights a Bay Area location with a secret past. Maybe it's no longer there, maybe it's been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in Bay Area history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Ocean Beach & Esplanade, 1927 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

From 1894 to 1967 a long iron pier jutted out into the water from Ocean Beach between Balboa and Anza Streets. The Lurline Pier held an intake pipe for pumping saltwater to the old Lurline Baths and Olympic Club pools downtown.

The pipeline was constructed in 1894, and would pump saltwater into a round brick pump house on Ocean Beach. Both were constructed by the Olympic Salt Water Company, run by mostly Olympic Club members, when the club president decided to open a saltwater pool at the club on Post Street between Mason and Taylor by pumping in seawater.

Olympic Club's main façade at Post and Mason streets, 1930s [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The company built the pier, the pump house, and miles of pipe down what would become Geary Boulevard. The Olympic Club's pool successfully opened in 1893, but the company continued its new business venture by opening the Lurline Baths as a public bath house in 1894. Located at the northwest corner of Bush and Larkin Streets, members of the public could rent a bathing suit and swim in either cold or heated pools for 30 cents.

Lurline Baths, date unknown [Photo: Cliff House Project]

According to the Ocean Beach Bulletin:
Up to 3 million gallons of seawater a day were drawn from the pier's intake pipe and sent though a 16-foot metal pipe out Balboa and over today's Geary Boulevard to the company's 5 million-gallon reservoir and settling tanks near today's Euclid and Masonic streets in Laurel Heights. From the reservoir, the water went on to the Olympic and Lurline pools by gravity.

Lurline Pier at Ocean Beach, 1930s [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The pump house at Ocean Beach was covered by a decorative archway in the 1920s as the beach front started growing with businesses and the Playland amusement park. The Lurline Baths closed in 1936 when business declined due to competition from other pools and lack of maintenance. The Olympic Club pool was converted to chlorinated freshwater, and the iron pier was finally demolished in 1967, while the pump house was torn down when Playland was demolished in 1972.

Thanks to Curbed reader Serge for the suggestion!
· Before Now – The Olympic Salt Water Company [Ocean Beach Bulletin]
· Lurline Pier (1894-1967) [Cliff House Project]

Ocean Beach

1000 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94121