Streetwise: Lost School Buildings Across San Francisco

by Frank Dunnigan

Many people have attended San Francisco schools that no longer exist exactly as they once were. Still, memories are long-term, so this month we take a look back through the photo archives and recall some vanished institutions that were once part of the daily lives of many local residents — some remodeled, some merged, some relocated, and some completely gone.


Gough Street near Sutter, 1951.1505 Gough Street, next to the Elizabeth Holloway School of the Theater, 1951. (wnp58.147; SF Assessors Office Negatives / WNP Collection)

ELIZABETH HOLLOWAY SCHOOL OF THE THEATER — In the shadow of this large apartment building, this school for the performing arts had Lincoln High grad Barbara Eden as one of its students. She was reportedly attracted to the course of study there when she heard a radio interview in which another local, Carol Channing (Commodore Sloat, Aptos, Lowell), mentioned her own studies there.


Folsom and 26th Streets, October 1984.View southwest across the intersection of 26th Street and Folsom Streets at Cogswell College, October 1984. (wnp32.3395; photo by Emiliano Echeverria, Emiliano Echeverria Collection / Courtesy of Emiliano Echeverria)

COGSWELL POLYTECHNICAL COLLEGE — Originally established on Nob Hill in 1887 as the first technical training institution in the West. Its downtown campus was severely damaged in 1906; in 1917, a new building (shown here in 1984) opened at 3000 Folsom Street in the Mission District. In 1974, the school relocated back to Nob Hill at Stockton and California Streets; a Ritz-Carlton hotel took over the marble-clad building when the school moved to Cupertino in 1985. In 1994, the school moved to Sunnyvale, and in 2015, it leased space in San Jose where it is now known as University of Silicon Valley. The Folsom Street facilities of Cogswell shown here were demolished and replaced with a full-block, three-story apartment complex that opened in 1987.


5th and Market Streets, circa 1870s.View southeast from the corner of 5th and Market Streets of Lincoln School, circa 1870s. (wnp37.03826; Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

LINCOLN SCHOOL — Built in the early 1860s on Fifth Street, just south of Market, the school educated thousands of local youths (including this author’s grandfather) who grew up nearby when the neighborhood was still largely residential. Though the school was lost in the 1906 fire, the City and County of San Francisco retained ownership of the land, and it was leased to a firm that built an aptly-named “Lincoln Building” at the site, catering to many local retail firms adjacent to the Emporium Building. When the San Francisco Shopping Center was built in the late 1980s (now known as the Westfield San Francisco Centre), the San Francisco Unified School District continued to own the land beneath the new establishment, and it still receives regular lease payments. BONUS: The separate building at far left is the 1855 St. Ignatius College/High School located adjacent on the 800 block of Market Street.


St. Joseph's Hospital, circa 1925.St. Joseph’s Hospital at Buena Vista East and Park Hill, across from Buena Vista Park, circa 1925. (wnp27.7170; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

ST. JOSEPH’S HOSPITAL & SCHOOL OF NURSING — Established in 1889 on Buena Vista Avenue above Haight Street, the original building shown here was demolished and replaced with a new structure in 1928, built in a Spanish Renaissance style. The hospital and its affiliated School of Nursing served the community for more than 50 years, but was de-licensed in 1979, and the building was later converted to residential condominiums.


McAllister Street near Hyde, March 25, 1957.View east from center of McAllister Street to Hastings law school, March 25, 1957. (wnp14.2618; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

HASTINGS LAW SCHOOL (recently renamed University of California College of the Law, San Francisco) — Seen here as a modern low-rise building at center left in 1957, the school was demolished in 2022 and replaced with a new structure. The 28-story high-rise building at center dates back to 1930 and was originally built as William Taylor Hotel and Temple Methodist Episcopal Church, and later re-branded as the Empire Hotel with a top-floor Sky Room Lounge. From World War II through the 1970s, it was known simply as 100 McAllister Street and housed a variety of federal government offices, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Selective Service Board. Acquired by Hastings in 1981, it was rebranded “McAllister Tower” and continues to be operated as housing for students and their families.


Broadway near Baker Street, July 21, 1921.View south across Broadway to Grant School, July 21, 1921. (wnp36.02575; photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

GRANT SCHOOL — Located at 2940 Pacific Avenue, Grant School was the long-time public school serving Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights from 1892 to 1971. The building shown here, viewed from the downhill Broadway side, was constructed in 1920-21 to replace an older structure. It closed 50 years later when it was determined that extensive earthquake retrofitting was needed. The San Francisco Unified School District eventually had the structure demolished and the site remained a weed-strewn lot for decades until it was sold at public auction in 1998 for $13.6 million. A small cluster of homes with magnificent views was eventually built on the property.


Market Street near 5th, 1963.View northeast on Market toward 5th Street, 1963. (wnp25.7020; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF BEAUTY CULTURE — This trade school occupied the top floor of the old Douglas Building at Market, Powell, and Eddy Streets in 1963. The institution was forced out in the late 1960s when the building was demolished to make way for Hallidie Plaza at the Powell Street BART/MUNI station.


Sacramento and Webster Streets, circa 1895.View northeast from intersection of Sacramento and Webster Streets to Cooper Medical College, circa 1895. (wnp27.4077; Pope Collection)

COOPER MEDICAL COLLEGE — A San Francisco physician, Elias Samuel Cooper, founded the city’s first medical school in 1858. In 1908, the institution was acquired by Stanford University and became known as Stanford Hospital. In the late 1950s, it relocated to Palo Alto at the main Stanford campus. After the move, the building shown here at Sacramento and Webster Streets was deeded to the Presbytery of San Francisco and became Presbyterian Hospital and Medical Center, renamed Pacific Medical Center in 1967, then Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center in 1983, and then California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in 1991. The old Cooper Building was demolished in 1974. CPMC medical offices occupy the site today.


Eddy and Larkin Streets, circa 1900.Southeast corner of Eddy and Larkin Streets, circa 1900. (wnp33.00686; photo by Turrill & Miller, Agnes Manning Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

SACRED HEART COLLEGE — In 1868, the Christian Brothers order established a school that offered both high school and college courses by 1874. In this 1899 image, the school was located at Eddy and Larkin Streets. Lost in the 1906 fire, it was rebuilt on Ellis Street, west of Van Ness Avenue. In 1987, the all-boys Sacred Heart High School merged with Cathedral High School – an all-girls school that replaced St. Vincent’s High School and was once located at Geary and Gough. That building was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a Lucky supermarket, which was soon razed to clear the larger site for construction of the present St. Mary’s Cathedral. San Francisco’s first co-ed Catholic high school has been known as Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep (SHC) for more than 35 years.