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Streetwise: Lost School Buildings of the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
September 2023

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
Many educational institutions on San Francisco’s west side have changed significantly over the years with new buildings, relocations, or sometimes even complete closures. This month, we take a look back at a few different places.

Sunset Nursery School, March 1972 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
SUNSET NURSERY SCHOOL (now known as SUNSET CO-OP NURSERY SCHOOL) — Begun as a WPA project in 1940, the school had a long association with City College of San Francisco, though that relationship changed in 1994 when the school became fully independent. Families of students each volunteer one half-day per week to augment the work of paid teachers and administrative staff. In 2005, an engineering report noted serious issues with the building shown here in March 1972 at Great Highway and Lawton Street. More than 60 years of harsh weather so near to the ocean resulted in serious decay, requiring extensive repairs or a complete rebuilding. Families rallied around the school and in 2010 a new building was opened at the site.

Parkside School, May 7, 1923 - Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works; courtesy of a Private Collector.
PARKSIDE SCHOOL — This Parkside School building, opened in 1923, replaced an earlier school house at 31st Avenue and Taraval Street (which was a wooden structure that was recycled in 1917 into the St. Cecilia Church building at 15th and Taraval). Parkside School served the neighborhood (including this author’s time in Kindergarten and Low 1st Grade in 1957-58) for more than 50 years before closing in 1975 for a planned earthquake retrofit. That retrofit never happened, and the site was used as school district offices for nearly 20 years before the building was demolished in 2004 and replaced by a totally new structure named Dianne Feinstein Elementary School (at the Parkside Campus). Read more about the Parkside School on WNP’s website.

St. Ignatius College, 1910 - Marilyn Blaisdell Collection; courtesy of a Private Collector.
ST. IGNATIUS COLLEGE — This wooden structure and the adjacent church building at left were hastily erected in 1906 on the south side of the 2200 block of Hayes Street between Shrader and Stanyan to replace the previous campus at Hayes and Van Ness that was relatively unscathed by the 1906 earthquake, but lost to the ensuing fire. The temporary church shown here was replaced in 1914 by a new structure that still stands today at nearby Fulton Street and Parker Avenue. The classroom building, affectionately known as the Shirt Factory for its simple design, housed both the college and high school departments for many years (and until 1912, also a grammar school department). In 1927, the college was relocated to a new building at 2130 Fulton Street that was subsequently expanded into today’s University of San Francisco. Two years later, the high school moved to new quarters at 222 Stanyan Street, where it remained until its 1969 relocation to 37th Avenue in the Sunset District.

Roosevelt School, October 8, 1915 - Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works; courtesy of a Private Collector.
ROOSEVELT SCHOOL — This 1915 image shows the old wooden structure that was once Roosevelt School. Built at the northeast corner of Geary and Arguello (then known as First Avenue), it was replaced with a larger and more architecturally significant building in 1928, which was known as Roosevelt Junior High School, and then later, Roosevelt Middle School. Based on the time of the school’s founding, it’s clear that it was named for President Theodore Roosevelt and NOT the later President (and Teddy’s distant cousin) Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Note the building at left, located across the street at the northwest corner of Arguello and Geary. It is the long-time Larkins Building that has housed many different institutions over the years, including: a bakery and warehouse, a carriage company, a car barn for the Geary Park & Ocean Railroad Company, a garage, a MUNI bus storage facility, a variety of car dealerships, and currently a retail outlet of an office supply company with a parking garage. Hear more about the history of Roosevelt as an educational institution on the Outside Lands podcast, and read more about the history of the Larkins Building.

San Francisco Riding School, circa 1935 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
SAN FRANCISCO RIDING SCHOOL — Located at Haight and Stanyan Streets, the school was a holdover from the days when horses represented a popular form of transportation on city streets. This image shows the institution in 1935. The business remained active until the post-World War II years, when a massive fire destroyed the buildings and many of the animals housed there.

Ulloa Street at 39th Avenue, February 15, 1953 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
ULLOA SCHOOL — Shown here in 1953 in a photograph that was capturing an adjacent auto accident, Ulloa School was built on 39th Avenue and Ulloa Street to serve the needs of the rapidly growing Sunset District in the 1940s. A new, larger school opened in 1952 nearby at 42nd Avenue and Vicente, and the older buildings from the World War II era became the Ulloa School Annex.

Affiliated Colleges, circa 1912 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
AFFILIATED COLLEGES — The Affiliated Colleges brought together a number of medical training facilities in the Parnassus Heights neighborhood in the late 1890s. See Arnold Woods’s A CLOSER LOOK column from May 2020 for a detailed history of how the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center came to be the school that we know today.

Rivendell Elementary School, 1990s - Philip Liborio Gangi, Richmond Review Newspaper Collection; courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
RIVENDELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — Located at 46th Avenue and Irving Street, the private school was housed in a former food store. It thrived for many years until its closed at the turn of the millennium. The structure shown here was then demolished and replaced by a new multi-unit residential building constructed on the site.

Jefferson School, circa 1925 - San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
JEFFERSON SCHOOL — Following a devastating arson fire near the end of the school year in 1959, Jefferson’s students were dispersed to several different nearby schools for the next academic year. The 1920s-era Jefferson School building at 19th Avenue and Irving Street was demolished and replaced with a modern structure, still with a red-brick façade. Only the school’s original auditorium, shown here at left, was saved and is still in use today.

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