San Francisco Industrial School

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San Francisco Industrial School
Established 1854
Construction Began 1855
Construction Ended 1865
Opened 1859
Closed 1893
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location San Francisco, CA
Alternate Names


In 1854, San Francisco purchased 100 acres for $10,000 from John Horner at the intersection of the San Jose Road and the Ocean House Road (the precursors of today's San Jose Avenue and Ocean Avenue) for the construction of the House of Refuge—an institution to deal with neglected, abandoned, and delinquent children under the age of 16. The footprint of that 100 acres still exists on today's maps as Balboa Park and City College of San Francisco.

In May of 1859 the "San Francisco Industrial School" opened in an unfinished building on the House of Refuge lot. In 1865, the building was completed with the addition of the North Wing. That same year a 60-foot right-of-way was sold to the San Jose Railroad. This would later become the right-of-way for the Southern Pacific Railroad and finally Interstate Highway 280. In the 1870s, the city built the House of Correction—ostensibly a correctional/rehabilitation facility for the slightly older criminals than those housed in the Industrial School, but not so hardened that they should be sent to San Quentin. For decades these two buildings stood almost side-by-side, separated by a wooden fence. Armed guards watched over the population of the House of Correction while unarmed "officers" supervised the Industrial School's population.

Originally both boys and girls were committed to the Industrial School, but the mischief resulting from the co-mingling of the sexes resulted in the girls being "farmed out" to the Sisters of Mercy at the Magdalen Asylum originally located on the side of today's General Hospital.

Crises, controversies, and scandals plagued the Industrial School. It was almost closed after only two years when the State of California opened a reform school in Marysville, but that institution was a failure from the start and shut its doors to send its remaining boys to San Francisco in 1868. Finally, with the opening of the State Reform schools in Whittier and Ione in 1890 and 1891, the Industrial School sent its last inmates away.

On the closing of the Industrial School, its building was taken over by the San Francisco sheriff to became a women's jail. After being badly damaged in the 1906 earthquake, half of the original building was razed.