The Opening of the Second Campus: 1861-1862

Tension between SI and the archdiocese convinced Maraschi to put plans to build a new church on hold as early as 1861. Something had to be done, however, as the old church was far too small. When Fr. Bouchard preached, “the little edifice [of the church] was taxed to its utmost, so that crowds stood without, unable to gain admission. Still his voice, which was remarkably powerful, reached even to these; and they stood in rapt admiration, for never before had they heard a man speak like this man.”1 In order to hold the crowds, Maraschi decided to use the upper level of the new college as a large hall, which could be used as a place of worship, and classrooms would occupy the first floor. From the base of the brickwork to the top of the cross, the school would measure 75-feet high.

On January 21, 1862, Maraschi stepped down as SI’s first president-rector at the end of the usual six-year term, and Fr. Congiato, an old friend of Alemany and the former head of the California mission, took over. The Jesuits hoped that Congiato’s close ties with Alemany would delay any decision regarding the St. Ignatius parish, as Sunday contributions were essential in keeping the school running. Also, the over-worked Maraschi needed more time to attend to finances, teaching and parish work.

The official announcement to the people of San Francisco that SI would build a new college came from Bouchard on February 23, 1862, who proclaimed that the Jesuits hoped “to erect a more commodious building and place of worship and also a college for the youth now growing up in our midst…. We are but poor Jesuits, but with God’s help, we anticipate no apprehension of failure. Our work here is to promote the honor and glory of God by affording means of worshipping Him in a suitable temple.”2

Building soon began, and after workers had laid the foundations of the Jesuit residence and college, the school held a ceremony in May 1862 that marked the laying of the cornerstone before a crowd of 3,000. Among those attending were Fr. Villiger from Santa Clara College and a Jesuit novice, Hugh McKeadney, who was also a talented architect and builder. He had drawn the plans for the new school and would serve as the project manager.

By July, SI had spent $60,000 on the new structure, $55,000 of that lent by the Hibernia Bank with a monthly interest rate of 1 percent. Due to the dispute over the church’s status as a parish, the Jesuits could not raise funds throughout the city but had to rely on voluntary gifts. “To tell the truth,” writes Riordan, “the offerings were generally small; $250 was certainly not a large amount, yet it was the largest individual gift that the fathers received, and the number of donors could be counted on the fingers of one hand.” Among those donors, Riordan notes, were several parish priests who were friends of the Jesuits.3

In August 1862, SI purchased a three-ton steel bell, measuring 6 feet at its mouth, cast in Sheffield, England. One of the city’s voluntary fire companies had ordered the bell, but by the time it arrived, the company had no funds to pay for it. The bell, christened the “San Francisco” went up for sale, and Villiger and Maraschi discovered it in an iron foundry while walking one day. “Father,” said Villiger to Maraschi, “that would be a fine college bell, but we have no money to buy it.” The two went to see the foundry’s owner, and Villiger asked for the bell, noting that “it would be a fine college bell, but we are too poor.”

Three weeks later, workers at Conroy and O’Connor Foundry marched the big bell up Market Street to the college and left it in the middle of the garden along with a letter indicating that the priests could take as long as they wished to pay the $1,350 bill for the bell. The Jesuits built a 30-foot tower in the garden and hung the bell atop it, ringing it “regularly for the college exercises and the Angelus, and its peal resounded for miles around.”4 (That same bell was moved to the school’s third site and crashed to the basement of the church during the 1906 earthquake and fire. The bell was rescued and installed in the bell towers of the following two St. Ignatius Churches. It was refurbished in the 1990s and still rings each day at noon, the oldest bell in daily use in the city.)

By Christmas Day 1862, the Jesuits had spent $102,500 on the new school and had amassed a debt nearing $140,000. With great faith that the school would succeed, they opened the great hall in the new building for worship. Visitors found the new brick building to be “severely plain in style but substantial and commodious.… The classrooms were large and airy and extended the whole length of the building…. Two rooms on the ground floor of the Fathers’ residence, and fronting Market Street, were devoted to science. Between these last, there was a permanent partition; not so, however, between the others. With these, everything save the outer walls was moveable.” Those who toured the new facility walked westward on wooden sidewalks and a newly graded Market Street past the old school and church (now used as a chapel for the sodalities). They passed the Market Street entrance for the new church and then turned south at Jessie Street where they found SI’s front doors. In short, what these Christmas Day visitors saw was a church and college that “were the best in the city” and by the end of the year, the student body swelled to 457 who were drawn to this impressive new school. The number of faculty, too, had increased to care for these new students. In 1861, SI employed four Jesuits and three laymen, and those numbers grew to eight Jesuits and four laymen by the end of 1862.

Two years later, in 1864, one San Francisco newspaper wrote of the new SI: “Today the Jesuits have built the most prosperous and populous education institution in California.”5