One School Becomes Two

In the 1920s, both students and teachers felt ready to move to new quarters, as the “temporary” Shirt Factory never proved truly satisfactory. Around 1925, Miss Mary Horgan died, leaving the school $25,000 in her will. The Jesuits hoped to ask 300 individuals to donate $1,000 each to help SI begin construction of a new campus, the fifth and final one for the university and the penultimate one for the high school.

In an article in the St. Ignatius Church Calendar from July 1926, Fr. Ray Feely, SJ, encouraged parishioners to donate towards this effort by helping to support the training of Jesuits: “To one to whom the name ‘St. Ignatius College and High School’ carries no significance, it must be a difficult enigma to solve, why over a thousand lads should deliberately pass by the luxurious temples of learning scattered throughout San Francisco and should content themselves to spend the glamorous days of youth in such drab surroundings. The enigma deepens when one learns that these young men are paying for the privilege of attending school in ‘a refugee shack’ (a reference to the emergency shelters of the 1906 Earthquake), while a short distance away splendid buildings offer them an education free and without tuition (i.e., Lowell, Polytechnic and Washington). And all this in an age which values chiefly the superficial, whose standard is the extrinsic and not the intrinsic worth, which is more concerned with the tortoise shell frame than with the accuracy of the lens!

“The answer to this enigma is to be found in two words, ‘Jesuit Education….’ The point sought to be brought home here is that, in San Francisco as elsewhere, parents and boys alike desire instruction by Jesuit teachers, even if that education demands sacrifices both in the matter of finances and accommodations. The insistence of the people of San Francisco is so strong that dozens are turned away annually from St. Ignatius for lack of classroom space.”

Fr. Edward J. Whelan, SJ, the 15th person to serve as president of SI, spearheaded fund-raising for the new college campus (the beginnings of USF) shortly after taking office in 1925, and by 1926, he had raised $10,000, enough to give him hope for the rest. On December 10, 1926, the college celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the Liberal Arts building on Ignatian Heights, the name students used to describe the hilltop campus site adjacent to St. Ignatius Church. Among those who spoke that day were Fr. Whelan, Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph, Msgr. Michael Connolly of St. Paul’s Parish (Archbishop Edward J. Hanna’s representative), and Frank Hughes ’83, president of the SI Alumni Association.

The new college building (Campion Hall) opened on October 9, 1927, after being blessed by Archbishop Hanna, and student enrollment finally began to increase. That slow growth inspired the college to change its name once again, this time to the University of San Francisco. However, not until the end of World War II and the introduction of the GI Bill did USF’s enrollment start to skyrocket, making it one of the premier universities on the West Coast and the next step in formal education for many SI graduates.

Between 1927 and 1929, SI high school students studied at the Shirt Factory awaiting their own new campus. Barrett & Hilp, the construction firm that built Campion Hall, began work on September 11, 1928, on the Stanyan Street campus, located between McAllister and Turk Streets. Designed by Edward F. Eames along “classical lines,” the new high school would be in “harmony with the church, the faculty building and the college building.”7 According to the St. Ignatius Church Calendar of 1928, planning for the new school involved a careful study “of the plans of schools throughout the country,” and visits with “more modern ones in Northern California.”

The article described the many state-of-the-art features of the new school: “The building has been designed to accommodate one thousand students and will contain, besides the regular business and administration offices, thirty-five classrooms, physics and chemistry laboratories, mechanical and free-hand drawing departments, library, assembly hall, chapel, cafeteria, co-operative store and book store, band room, winter play room and gymnasium.8

“The gymnasium will be the finest in Northern California and one of the finest in the country. In it will be located some seven hundred lockers, besides showers, dressing rooms for visiting teams and coaches’ rooms. The main floor will be 60 by 102 feet in the clear, and rising from that will be the grandstands with accommodations for 1,500 spectators.” (The school, however, would not muster enough funds to build this gymnasium until the 1950s.)

“The high school will have a frontage of 264 feet on Stanyan Street and 75 feet on Turk Street, and the gymnasium, south of the high school building, will have 130 feet on Turk Street and 104 on Stanyan.”

The football field next to the school featured an 8-lane crushed-granite track and wooden bleachers on the east side of the field. It was known as SI Field and later, after the high school moved to the Sunset District, as Loyola Field and then as Negoesco Stadium. (The field now offers stadium lights, seating for 5,000, a concession stand and a pressbox — a far cry from the windswept plain where SI teams battled for 40 years.)

Construction took a year, and the Stanyan Street campus opened August 19, 1929. The Calendar extolled its beauty then, noting that the lobby “is done in Sienna marble, the walls being in imitation travertine.” It touted the library, which had “accommodations for 10,000 volumes and for 100 students. It is done in the mission style, the woodwork in oak. An Assembly Hall adjoins the Library, a delicately done thing with beamed ceiling, in a grayish color, the drapes for the windows and stage in green.”

The article noted the layout of the building, with offices for the principal, vice principal, spiritual director, student body and athletic departments on the first floor along with seven classrooms. The second floor held 15 classrooms, with an addition 12 on the third level. “The Physics and Chemistry Departments, modern and up to the minute in every way, are located on the third floor, and next to them are two drawing rooms, one for mechanical drawing, the other for free-hand drawing.

“The gem of the entire building is the chapel, the entrance to which is on the second floor, but which occupies the space of two floors. It has a gallery, which is entered from the third floor. The harmony of the Chapel, the delicately colored walls, the graceful arches over the windows, the symbolism of the ornaments, all point to it as being something quite distinctive in a Chapel design. But the crowning point of the chapel is the Altar, designed entirely by Mr. Edward Eames….

“In the basement, which is completely above ground, are found the Student’s Co-operative Store, the Book Store, the Assembly Room and Library of the Gentlemen’s Sodality, a huge winter playground, a Cafeteria completely modern in every detail, the athletic locker and dressing rooms, and the Boiler Room.

“The extensive playgrounds outside of the building contain four basketball courts, three handball courts and a tennis court. And just east is the Athletic Field, which will be used both by the College and High School. The field has been thoroughly graded and planted in grass; in length it is 534 feet, and in width 200 feet. The turf field is encircled by a quarter-mile running track, which has been designed and laid out in accordance with every requirement and is one of the very best tracks in California.”

The article concluded with praise for the state-of-the-art public address system “which the principal from his desk can address the students in any particular classroom, or in all the classrooms at once. By means of the loud speaker attachment in all of the rooms connection may be made…. Thus a notice, instead of being sent around by word of mouth to the thirty-five classrooms and consuming a great deal of time, can be delivered simultaneously to all of the classes at the expense of just a few moments of time.” The PA also allowed for radio hookups. “Thus if a message should be on the air that would be of great educational advantage to the group studying American History, for instance, or Civics, or Chemistry, that message can be directed to those particular classes. The possibilities of the Public Address System are very great and far-reaching indeed.”

Students leaving the Shirt Factory to study on Stanyan Street felt as if they were walking into the Taj Mahal. This landmark school would serve more than 10,000 Ignatians over the next 40 years until 1969 when SI moved to its sixth campus, located in the Sunset District.