Today, I said goodbye to something that not only had been part of Ten Fifty-Five for several decades, but I also may have to say goodbye to a story that I probably told 100s of times over the years. People will tell you that I am not the greatest raconteur, but there are some stories that I love to tell over and over, including the Duane-missing-the-boat story and how-we-tricked-Mike-to-think-he-had-a-date-with-Kiera-Knightley story. The story of the Ten Fifty-five sauna is one of those stories.
Over the years, we have hosted dozen and dozens of events at Ten Fifty-five. One of the reasons we had parties was that we have a huge backyard, which is rare in San Francisco. When people first visited Ten Fifty-five, they would eventually be directed to our backyard and see the sauna perched on top of the hill at the back of our backyard. People would naturally ask…
- What is that ?
- Does someone live there?
- It’s a sauna? Does it work?
That was my cue to tell the story…
When I first moved into Ten Fifty-five in July of 1995, there was a big deck in the back of the house. It had a gazebo, hot tub, and unbeknown to us… a sauna. Our landlady warned us to stay off the deck because it was not safe. Of course, being stupid kids in our early 20s (albeit all Stanford grads), we threw a party and in the midst of the party decided to climb onto the deck. One of my first roommates, Sara, climbed up the rotted-out staircase and proceeded to tempt fate by jumping up and down the steps. She fell through, but I caught her before she fell completely through. Fortunately due to being a little tipsy, she did not feel the pain until the following day. In any case, a few of us climbed up and hung out on the deck until our landlady, who lived next door, asked us to get off.
Throughout the years when asked about the deck, I would tell people that the previous tenants owned a business that installed decks, hot tubs, etc. and had built the the deck in our backyard when they lived there. Unfortunately, they never finished the deck, so the hot tub was not functional, and worse, the wood was never treated. As a result, all the wood rotted and made the entire structure unusable.
Then about 2003, we decided to tear down the structure. My roommates and I along with my neighbors decided to take on the project. It took all day to take apart the deck. It was sad to tear apart the hot tub which had never been used and was in relatively good condition. Toward the end of the tear down, we somehow uncovered this structure that had been hidden behind some ivy for ages. It was the sauna. When we opened the door, the entire was in nearly pristine condition. As we looked at the structure, we noticed the great craftsmanship — all the great tongue and groove woodwork was impressive. Since we had already cut apart the hot tub, we then decided to tear down the sauna too. However, when we took a sledgehammer to it, the sledgehammer just bounced back. Hence, we decided to keep it.
Shortly afterward, we had a party and decorated the sauna with lights and turned it into a bar. We had several offers from people that night to rent it out despite there being no running water and electricity …and it being not much larger than a queen-size bed.
Over the years, we have hosted several events and at times the sauna roof served as a good vantage point to see the Blue Angels during Fleet Week and fireworks during the Fourth of July. When it was not serving as a deck, it served as a good topic of conversation. Sauna, you will be missed.