Sunol Water Temple – Sunol-Midtown, California - Atlas Obscura

Sunol Water Temple

Sunol-Midtown, California

A Roman-inspired temple once controlled half of San Francisco's waters. 


Built between 1906-1910, the little Sunol Water Temple sits atop the spot where three local water sources converge, once providing half of the water of the city of San Francisco.

Architect Willis Polk designed the temple after the beautiful Roman ruins of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy where much of ancient Rome’s waters flowed. Graceful columns rise up, surrounding a central cistern, topped with a domed ceiling decorated with Roman-inspired images of Indian maidens. The stones around the top of the temple are inscribed with water-themed Biblical passages “I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry lands springs of water” and “The streams whereof shall make glad the city.”

The construction of the Hetch Hetchy Aquaduct in 1932 rendered the Sunol waters obsolete, and inspired the building of the Bay Area’s other classically inspired water temple, the Pulgas Water Temple in Redwood City.

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