San Francisco Genealogy
Past History of Our School
Girls High School Mirror, 11 April 1944, page 1.

Past History Of Our School

A symbol of the integrity and courage of those teachers and students who have preceded us, stands this school of ours today, which first began its struggle for existence four score years ago. During this span of years, fire and earthquake have completely demolished the Girls High buildings, but each time the school has a resurrected itself from the ruins and reestablished itself a bigger and better school.


History takes us back to 1860 when the only institution for higher learning in this city was a co-educational school, San Francisco High, located at Powell and Clay Streets; but as a distinct need was felt for segregated schools, it was separated in 1864 into the Boys and Girls High. This was the beginning of our school.

Ellis H. Holmes, who had presided over the San Francisco High School, was chosen principal of the new Girls High which was established on Bush and Stockton Streets. Until 1876 Mr. Holmes remained principal and was succeeded by Mr. John Swett, whose influence as an educator extended throughout the nation. During Mr. Swett's term, Girls High continued in its rapid growth; and in 1889 when he resigned, there were one hundred and thirty graduates of Girls High that year.


In 1887, entrance to the University of California required a knowledge of Latin. Since Latin was not taught in Girls High, the Board of Education allowed girls who desired to prepare for the University to attend the Boys High School which then received the name of 'Lowell'. The enrollment of Girls High was accordingly diminished.


In 1890, Girls High, then housed in a frame building at Bush and Hyde streets, was completely destroyed by fire. During the time when a permanent building was being sought, Girls High was temporarily moved to Cogswell High School and later to a primary building on Golden Gate Avenue.


Girls High School moved into a brick building in 1892 (see picture on this page) erected on the present site, and here the school continued until, in 1906, the  earthquake wrecked the school. For two years, while a temporary home was being built on the same lot, afternoon classes were held at Lowell with borrowed textbooks and supplies; but even under these adverse conditions, the spirit of Girls High would not perish. There was talk of incorporating Girls High with Lowell, but the girls preferred to remain in a separate school. Girls High was an established institution; the citizens of San Francisco, as well as the parents and students, realized its value to the city.

Later in 1910, while the temporary building was being moved to Hamilton Square to make way for the construction of a new building, classes were held at the High School of Commerce in the afternoons. In August, 1913, Girls High again resumed its career on the corner of Geary and Scott and increased in numbers.


Dr. Scott, who succeeded Elisha Brooks in 1904, had just cause for pride when in June, 1913, sixty-four girls received their diplomas from the platform of the present building. The new equipment provided for the introduction of other branches of work — cooking, sewing, commercial training, etc.

On the first of November, 1926, Dr. Arthur W. Scott, who had been principal for twenty-two years, retired. He was succeeded by Mr. Charles C. Danforth.


It is thus seen that from infancy the Girls High School has had a checkered career. Earthquake and fire may have destroyed our school, but courage and the will to survive have put it back on its feet again and again. Girls High has gained a permanent place in the hearts of the people of San Francisco, and now under the able leadership of Miss Edith Pence, it expects to continue to be a credit to our city and state.

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