"On a High Eminence": The History of Glen Park School

This article was originally published in the (Hi)Stories of Our Neighborhoods column in the Fall 2016 issue of the Glen Park News. It is republished here with permission.

The land bordered by Bosworth, Brompton, Lippard, and Joost Streets was originally part of the Ulshofer milch ranch. By 1871, it had been platted as Block 3 among the first streets in the future Glen Park (see Glen Park News, Spring 2016). The City later acquired the property in March 1905 from the estate of pioneer real estate agent John Pforr. Purchased for $5,600 (about $152,000 today), the City planned to construct the Sunnyside School.

However, after the Great San Francisco Earthquake in April 1906 and with displaced residents relocating to Glen Park in droves, the City set up a temporary refugee camp on the future school site. With the influx of new residents, many students from Glen Park and the Sunnyside were attending the overcrowded Fairmount School; others attended a temporary school set up in shacks at the refugee camp. When the City decided to build a new school in the Sunnyside district, the name for the planned school on Block 3 became the Glen Park Grammar School.

Designed by architects Havens and Toepke, Glen Park’s first school was a beautiful Mission Revival structure noted to be on an “exceedingly picturesque” site, a “high eminence [with] an unobstructed view for many miles.” Constructed of Oregon pine, with a shingled exterior, heavily molded window frames, and “modern sanitary appliances,” its 10 to 12 rooms could hold up to 450 students. Completed in December 1907 at a cost of $45,000 ($1.2 million today), it finally opened to students in August 1908. Two new wings and an auditorium were added in 1914. In her 24th year in the school district, Mrs. Celina R. Pechin was the first principal of the school.

By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the school was outdated and considered a fire hazard. Under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and during an era known as the Golden Age for San Francisco school design, prominent architects Lewis P. Hobart and Walter Danforth Bliss combined Art Deco-style with stripped Classicism to create the new Glen Park Elementary School. The “two-story-plus-daylight basement” structure was built with reinforced concrete for fire- and quake-proofing. “Zigzags, chevrons, rays, stepped arches, and stylized floral or natural forms” (hence, the elk and griffons) were incorporated on the exterior, and simple moldings and other features helped expose the building’s “underlying geometry.” The federal government covered 45% of the $320,760 cost ($5.7 million today). Completed in 1935, dedicated in 1937, and with grounds and retaining walls “beautified” in 1939, Glen Park School still stands today as a prominent icon of our district.

Glen Park School Class Picture, 1909. Image states on the back, "Glen Park School 1909, Miss Glennon's 6B & 8A grades." Image courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.

Glen Park School Class Picture, 1909. Image states on the back, "Glen Park School picture. Mary's father, George, is in the class." Image courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.

Glen Park School Class picture, 1928. Donor has added to the picture, "Florence Lucassen, front row, fourth from left." Image courtesy of Val Hoover.

Box and cover of a Memories Book, owned by Lois McElroy of Mizpah Street, 1928.

Title page, Glen Park School Day Memories, owned by Lois McElroy, 1928.

The “new” Glen Park School, completed in 1935. Image by Gabrielle Lurie, from the San Francisco Chronicle, January 9, 2017.

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