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St. Rose Academy

by Gail MacGowan

From January 1906 until June 1990, St. Rose Academy shared with St. Dominic’s Church the city block purchased in the Western Addition by the Dominican friars in 1863.

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St. Rose Academy graced the corner of Pine and Pierce Streets until it was damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

The oldest private girls’ school in San Francisco when it closed in 1990, St. Rose was founded by the Dominican sisters of San Rafael in 1862. It soon outgrew its first convent on Brannan Street between Third and Fourth Streets, and moved into its new St. Rose Academy on Tyler Street (later renamed Golden Gate) between Steiner and Pierce in 1878. After this building was consumed by fire in 1893, the school found temporary quarters at two other sites before constructing their new academy on the land owned by the Dominican friars at Pine and Pierce Streets. The new St. Rose Academy opened in January 1906.

It is here that the history of St. Rose Academy intersects with City Guides, for our own Mary McCloy is a proud alumna of St. Rose, as are her three sisters. Mary was a member of its 100th graduating class in 1962.

St. Rose Academy spread across Pierce Street in 1958 and 1960, when it added two buildings that had formerly been the Crocker Old People’s Home complex, built by the widow of trans-continental railroad tycoon Charles Crocker as a memorial to her deceased husband.

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Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Alas, although St. Rose survived the 1906 earthquake, it was not so fortunate in 1989. The damage from the 1989 tremor was deemed too expensive to repair, and the school was closed. Its former site now provides parking for St. Dominic’s and the Megan Furth Academy elementary school next door.

However, a remnant of St. Rose Academy can still be found in Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto—but the beloved shrine barely survived the wrecking ball. Sitting amidst the rubble that surrounded St. Rose Academy following the 1989 earthquake, the grotto gradually became overgrown by the gnarly decorative vines that surrounded it. Crews that arrived to demolish the damaged school were about to bulldoze the overgrown mound when St. Dominic’s Father Martin Walsh realized what was happening and hurried to the site to throw himself in front of the bulldozers and save the shrine. Thanks to his rescue, it remains intact to provide a peaceful oasis rising amidst the asphalt of today’s parking lot.

And of course the memory of St. Rose lives on in the lives of the many women like the McCloy sisters who developed their love of learning in its halls.

  • Father Martin Walsh
  • Maryanne Murray, St. Rose Academy Alumnae Assc.
  • Dominican University of California has the history of St. Rose.

    Dominican University of California

    50 Acacia Avenue San Rafael, CA 94901


  • Drawing of St. Rose Academy, by Joyce Dowling. Courtesy of St. Rose Alumnae Association.

    Photo of Grotto, courtesy of Gail MacGowan.

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    Material of San Francisco City Guides. Please give credit to the author and SF City Guides if referenced or reproduced.