by Frank Dunnigan
Earlier this month, Streetwise on Outsidelands.org took a look at the many private, non-sectarian schools operating in the western neighborhoods that are educating more than 4,000 students on a daily basis. This led to taking a closer look at what is going on in other City neighborhoods, and thus the focus of this month’s Streetwise for OpenSFHistory.org—namely, that an additional 8,000 young people are enrolled in private, non-sectarian schools in other parts of San Francisco.
The following 35 schools in the Mission, Noe Valley, Pacific Heights, the Portola, Potrero Hill and other neighborhoods are co-educational, except as noted, and all appear to have diverse student bodies, need-based tuition waivers/assistance, plus active programs in sports, music, science, and arts. Enrollment numbers are noted in parentheses.
A review of closed and then-current, as of July 2018, Catholic Schools throughout San Francisco appeared in Streetwise column on Outsidelands.org several years ago.
Academy of Thought & Industry (41)—Grades 8-12 on Jackson Street in Pacific Heights.
St. James School, now the Adda Clevenger School, at 23rd and Jackson Streets, April 26, 1916. (wnp36.01234; DPW Horace Chaffee, photographer – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
Adda Clevenger (136)—The St. James Boys School in the Mission District at 23rd & Fair Oaks (built in 1908 and shown here in 1916) was closed in 1970 and merged with the nearby St. James Girls School. The 1908 brick building is now occupied by the private Adda Clevenger School, founded in 1980, where its PK-8 program is operating.
Alta Vista School (180+)—K-5 on Somerset Street at the former St. Elizabeth’s School in the Portola.
Alta Vista School (140+)—Grades 6-8 operating in a new building at 2558 Mission Street that was once the site of Hale’s Mission store.
Big City Montessori (100)—Nursery-PK on Industrial Street in the Bayview.
Children’s Day School (382)—Grades K-8 at former site of Notre Dame School in the Mission.
Chinese-American International School (500)—Founded in 1981, the school currently has three
campus locations: Pre-K (75) on Waller Street, K-5 Main Campus (250) on Oak Street, and Middle School Campus (175) on Turk Street. In 2021, the school purchased the former Mercy High School campus on 19th Avenue, which operated from 1952 to 2020, and when renovations are completed prior to the 2023-2024 school year, all three divisions will be relocated to the 19th Avenue site.
Compass School for Universal Education (650)—Online K-12 school with Market Street offices.
Drew School (280)—Grades 9-12, founded in 1908 and located on California Street near Presidio Avenue.
French-American International School (1,085)—Nursery through Grade 12 located on Oak Street near Market in an expanded cluster of buildings once used by the California State Division of Highways.
Fusion Academy (55)—Grades 6-12, located on Battery Street near the Embarcadero.
Golden Bridges School (95)—PK-6 school on Cambridge Street in the Portola at the site of the former Convent of the Good Shepherd/Immaculate Heart School.
Guidepost Fort Mason (55)—PK-8 school on Buchanan Street near Fort Mason.
Hamlin School (436)—Founded in 1896, this K-8 school is located on Broadway in Pacific Heights. A high school division also operated there for many years, but it was closed in 1975. The girls-only institution is regarded as the oldest nonsectarian, independent day school for girls in the western United States. In 1927, the school acquired the former James Flood mansion, built at 2120 Broadway in 1900, as its new location—where it continues to operate today on an expanded footprint. [Note: Despite a somewhat similar appearance, the above structure is completely different from a later Flood family home one block west at 2222 Broadway, which was built in 1912, and then donated by Mrs. Flood to the Schools of the Sacred Heart in 1939, where it has operated as Convent of the Sacred Heart ever since.]
Hearing & Speech Center of Northern California (20)—Small special education school on Divisadero Street.
Hillwood Academic Day School (29)—Grades 1-8 on Scott Street in Pacific Heights.
Holy Family Day Home (78)—Nursery/1st located at a former Catholic school site on Dolores Street. Reorganized after the school was rebuilt in 2007, it retained its historic name, but now operates as a non-sectarian institution with a lay board of directors. The original Holy Family Day Home began operations in 1900 as a resource for working families, and was located at 6th & Brannan Streets in the working-class South-of-Market neighborhood. Following its loss in the 1906 earthquake and fire, the institution relocated in 1911 to 16th & Dolores Streets (shown here in 1939) where it operated until the above building (designed by noted architect Willis Polk) was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The school was forced to cut enrollment and move into much smaller quarters nearby while options were considered. In the year 2000, the school was finally able to obtain a demolition permit for the damaged and unused historic building, and a new home was built at the site, opening in the fall of 2007.
International High School (391)—Grades 9-12 with Special Program emphasis on Oak Street.
Katherine Michelis (80)—PK-5 school on Guerrero Street in the Mission District.
La Scuola International School (40)—PK multi-lingual (English/Spanish/Italian) on 20th Street near Potrero Hill. LaScuola previously operated at the former Sacred Heart School at Fell & Fillmore.
La Scuola International School (242)—The former St. Charles School on 18th Street in the Mission District (shown here in 1974) closed in 2017 due to low enrollment. The old building, constructed and operated as St. Charles Church from 1888-1916, was then used by the parish school from 1916 to 2017. It was then occupied by a series of private schools—the latest being the La Scuola International School, a K-8 multi-lingual (English/Spanish/Italian).
Live Oak School (335)—K-9 located on Mariposa Street on Potrero Hill.
Meadows-Livingstone School (25)—Grades 1-6 with Special Emphasis Programs on Potrero Avenue.
Millennium School (95)—Grades 6-8 with Special Emphasis Programs on Valencia Street.
Montessori House of Children (100)—Nursery-PK in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.
Oakes Children’s Center (13)—Grades 3-8 on Treat Avenue in the Mission District.
Presidio Hill School (232)—Grades K-8 on Washington Street in Presidio Heights.
Presidio Knolls School (388)—Nursery-8 on 10th Street Mandarin-immersion school at the site of the old St. Joseph School. The former St. Joseph School operated in different buildings at the site since the early 20th century, but closed down at the turn of the millennium before being acquired by the private Presidio Knolls School. The adjacent de-consecrated church building in the image above has undergone an extensive renovation and since 2018 has been in use an art museum. Read more about the art museum.
Rise Institute (34)—Grades 2-12 with Special Ed programs on Cesar Chavez Street.
San Francisco University High School (420)—Grades 9-12 on Jackson Street in Presidio Heights since 1975.
San Francisco Waldorf Grade School (310)—Grades PK-8 located in Pacific Heights since 1980.
Spectrum Center (18)—Grades 8-12 with Special Ed programs on Gough Street.
Sterne School (173)—Grades 4-12 with Special Program Emphasis operating at the rebuilt former St. Mary’s Chinese School on Kearny Street (former site of the International Hotel) near Chinatown.
Town School (409)—A boys-only school since 1939, this K-8 is on Jackson Street in Pacific Heights. It was originally located on McAllister Street in the Western Addition. After the War, the school acquired the Gallatin Mansion at 2700 Jackson Street, shown here, behind the streetcar, in 1941. The old building, dating back to 1894, was demolished for a new Town School campus in 1958 and that new building has been expanded and renovated several times since then. [Note: In 1877, the same Gallatin family also commissioned the Sacramento mansion that later came into use as the California Governor’s Mansion from 1903-1967. That structure has now been preserved as part of a small state park in downtown Sacramento.]
Urban School of San Francisco (425)—Grades 9-12 located in the Haight-Ashbury.
by Arnold Woods
San Francisco loves a fair. On three occasions, it held a World’s Fair to bring people from around the world to the City. The first one, the 1894 Midwinter Fair, was a way to show off Golden Gate Park, which the City had been building for nearly 25 years and was finally in shape to present to the world. The second one, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, technically celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal the year before, but really was a ceremonial reopening of San Francisco after it rebuilt itself following the 1906 earthquake. When the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were built in the 1930s, San Francisco threw another World’s Fair to celebrate their opening. This time it was called the Golden Gate International Exposition, aka, the GGIE.
Tower of the Sun framing during construction of the Golden Gate International Exposition, September 19, 1938. (wnp100.00636; Morton-Waters Co., photographers – SCRAP Negative Collection / Courtesy of SCRAP)
Since it was a celebration of the two bridges, sites near both bridges were considered, as well as Golden Gate Park, Lake Merced, and Islais Creek.1” A vote was held to determine the site of the Fair and voters overwhelming chose the new island that was being constructed on Yerba Buena Shoals, the rocky waters north of Yerba Buena Island.2 A contest was held to name the Fair. A sales clerk named Elizabeth Whitney won the contest with her submission of “The Golden Gate International Exposition: A Pageant of the Pacific.3”
The transformation of Yerba Buena Shoals into Treasure Island was a massive project involving 287,000 tons of quarried rock sunk around the shoals to create a rock wall for the island and then dredging 20 million cubic yards of sea bottom and dumping it within those walls to create the island’s base level.4 After the sand was “unsalted” through a leeching process, 50,000 cubic yards of loam was added to make the soil suitable for plants. Once Treasure Island was completed, construction of the World’s Fair began.
For the construction, an architectural commission was appointed, composed of noted architects Arthur Brown, Jr., Lewis P. Hobart, George W. Kelham, William G. Merchant, Timothy L. Pflueger, and Ernest E. Weihe.5 This commission selected an overall Mayan theme for the buildings at the exposition, but they modernized it with some Asian and Cambodian influences. They wanted a design that was unique and dramatic while still being practical.
One thing about the new island was that it was situated where winds coming through the Golden Gate would bear down directly upon it. As such, part of the plan for the fairgrounds was to build a wall of buildings of some height on the western side of the island to provide wind protection. There were twelve exhibit “palaces” erected, mostly connected with each other, on grounds that were more than half a mile long and a third of a mile wide.
Construction carried on for most of 1938 and into 1939. In fact, on opening day, February 18, 1939, there were still doing the finishing touches.6 The gates officially opened at 8:00 a.m., but workers’ and visitors’ cars were coming in as early as 6:30 a.m. Ferries from San Francisco and Oakland also brought the throngs that crowded the GGIE on day one.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the GGIE, by radio from Key West, Florida, and his address blared to the crowds from the Federal Building at the fair. Roosevelt had visited the site the prior year on July 14, 1938 for a luncheon in the Administration Building with 1000 guests.7 For the opening, the President declared Treasure Island “one of the world’s major democracies and a vital symbol of international peace.7”
The GGIE closed on October 29, 1939…for the first time. It was revived for awhile in 1940 before closing permanently. It would be, at the time of this writing, the last World’s Fair held here. San Francisco still loves a fair though. We may not have huge ones like the World’s Fair anymore, but there are lots of smaller ones happening every year.
See also, Woody LaBounty’s closer look at the GGIE at Night.
1. “Study of Sites For Span Fetes Is Arranged,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 1934, p. 17.
2. “Mainland Sites, Bond Issue for Fair Voted Down,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 1935, p. 1.
3. “Golden Gate International Exposition,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 4, 1936, p. 3.
5. “Treasure Island ‘The Magic City,’ 1939-1940; The Story of the Golden Gate International Exposition,” by Jack James and Earle Vonard Weller, Pisani Printing 1941, p. 25 et seq.
6. “The Exposition Is Open! Crowds Swarm Onto Isle,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1939, pp. 1, 7, News section.
7. “Half Million People Line Streets to Greet Roosevelt,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 15, 1938, pp. 1-2.
8. “F.R. Proclaims Treasure Isle A Democracy,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1939, p. 1.