Lincoln High: Five Favorites

by Arnold Woods

This week, Lincoln High School celebrates its 80th anniversary. The first and only public high school built in the Sunset District, Lincoln was constructed after more than a decade of campaigning. To honor this anniversary, we are taking a look at five of our favorite images from the early years of Lincoln High School.

Lincoln High School dedication ceremony, September 22, 1940. (WNP Collection)

Our first image goes back to the beginning, the dedication ceremony on Sunday, September 22, 1940. As seen here, a number of speeches were given, but there was also a parade and marching bands.1 Sunset District residents began seeking a local high school back in 1927 as their children often had to take several buses just to get to their high school. Finally, in 1938 a bond measure to build a school was placed on the ballot and passed with a great deal of lobbying by the Parkside District Improvement Club. Classes would begin on the day after the dedication.

Sunset District Aerial showing Lincoln High School and Sunset Reservoir, 1941.Sunset District Aerial showing Lincoln High School and Sunset Reservoir, 1941. (wnp27.5517; Gabriel Moulin – Photographer / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)

When Lincoln High was built, it was located on one of the then still existing sand dunes in the Sunset District. In the image above, it stands tall by itself just to the southeast of the Sunset Reservoir. Another large sand dune fills the area west of the reservoir from about 31st Avenue out to Sunset Boulevard. Despite the size of the Lincoln High building, it was not big enough to contain all the students from the area, so a number of bungalows would be built around the exterior. These bungalows would end up serving as classrooms for over 50 years.

Female student with binder on 24th Avenue in front of Lincoln High School, 1943.Female student with binder on 24th Avenue in front of Lincoln High School, 1943. (wnp27.1106; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)

While this image is focused on the student, it gives us a good look at what the 24th Avenue side of Lincoln High looked like at the beginning. The four-story building was designed by Fred H. Meyer, Martin Rist, and Timothy Pfleuger. The school featured 100 classrooms, workshops, and a library, but did not have a gymnasium or auditorium when it opened. Separate girls and boys gymnasiums–North and South Gymnasiums, respectively–and the auditorium would be built later. A stadium would eventually be erected in what were sand dunes to the south of the main building and to the north of McCoppin Square.

Lincoln High chemistry lab, September 1940. (San Francisco Pacific News)

As a new high school, Lincoln featured then modern science labs, such as this chemistry classroom where the students in this image are being taught by John Nill. A number of notable people matriculated through these classrooms, including former California Representative and State Senator John Burton, actress Barbara Eden, golfer Johnny Miller, football coach Mike Holmgren, Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, and Sunset District historian and author Lorri Ungaretti.

Lincoln High cafeteria, September 1940. (San Francisco Pacific News)

We always like it when we find images of the people who are typically overlooked and underappreciated. Perhaps the most overlooked and underappreciated people at a high school are the “lunch ladies.” When Lincoln High School opened, it had a modern cafeteria that was run by Eunice Carl and June Pease, seen here with Principal C.W. White. The cafeteria served meals to several thousand students each school day. These days, Lincoln is considered one of the top high schools in the state. A new wing was finished in 2009 which finally allowed the school to remove the bungalows. We look forward to the next 80 years of Lincoln High School.


1.“New Lincoln High School Dedicated,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 23, 1940, p. 28.