Relief Home for Aged and Infirm

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Relief Home for Aged and Infirm
Established 1867
Opened 1908 (second location)/1924 (third location)
Demolished 2008
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location San Francisco, CA
Architecture Style Spanish Revival
Alternate Names
  • Laguna Honda Relief Home
  • Laguna Honda Hospital
  • Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center


Laguna Honda first opened in 1867 as an almshouse for the Gold Rush pioneers (the ones who didn't strike it rich, anyway). The city constructed a four story wood frame building on the old San Miguel Rancho west of Twin Peaks. The large rancho site had a natural spring that fed a deep lagoon, hence the name Laguna Honda, and the almshouse grew its own food and livestock on the 87 acres. A 24-bed hospital was opened during a smallpox epidemic in 1868, and was replaced by a small asylum two years later. Buildings continued to be added to the site.

The defining event of the early part of the new century was the great earthquake and fire of 1906. The Almshouse was pressed into service to house and care for thousands of displaced San Franciscans. Now known as the Relief Home, it consolidated earthquake victims living in refugee camps scattered across the city. A new pavilion-style building was constructed, able to accommodate 1,000 people. The building was dedicated in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt. By 1910, the city had added another stately new building to the Relief Home. Known as Clarendon Hall, it housed 250 people, and for the first time was intended specifically for people who needed long term medical care.

The leap from Relief Home to skilled nursing facility began in earnest in the 1920’s when Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph turned over the first spade of earth for the Spanish Revival-style buildings that would become Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center Those buildings, whose Mediterranean tile work is echoed in the architecture of today’s Laguna Honda, were opened in 1926 and continued to grow in the decades that followed with the addition of new “finger wings,” the long, Florence Nightingale-style open wards that were customary at the time.[1]

In the 1930s, Laguna Honda became a teaching center for the University of California medical school. Surgery began to be performed, and cardiograph and x-ray technology was introduced. The entryway to the main building was graced with now-classic WPA murals, which are still on display.

By 2008 Clarendon Hall was demolished for the new Laguna Honda Hospital buildings designed by Anshen+Allen Architects and Stantec Architecture, though they are not really visible from the road with all the tree coverage.