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SHC’s story is one of determination, resilience and a continued commitment to serving San Francisco’s youth. The school’s history is inextricably linked to the founding of the city of San Francisco, and thus, our physical placement in the urban center of San Francisco holds a theoretical significance as well. We have played a part in San Francisco’s history just as it has played a part in ours.
The tale begins in the mid to late 1800s, while San Francisco is undergoing tremendous change. Between 1844 and 1850, the nascent city experiences a population boom of unprecedented proportions—from 50 residents to 25,000—amid the frenzy of the San Francisco Gold Rush. Overwhelmed and concerned with the swelling population, Bishop Joseph Alemany requests that the Daughters of Charity be sent from Emmitsburg, Maryland to serve San Francisco’s youth. In 1852, seven sisters of the Daughters of Charity embark upon their treacherous journey to the West Coast. Sadly, two of the sisters die from cholera in transit. When the remaining five sisters arrive in San Francisco, they establish an orphanage and girls’ day school, later known as St. Vincent’s, to serve the growing population of underprivileged youth.
San Francisco’s population continues to rise steadily each year, and the need for youth services and educational outlets rises as well. In 1868, with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, San Francisco is the 10th largest city in the country. In 1868, the Christian Brothers open St. Peter’s Parochial School—later Sacred Heart High School—in an effort to serve the growing elementary school population.
In 1906, intellectual, academic and societal progress grinds to a halt when an 8.25 magnitude earthquake rattles the city and sparks the Great Fire. Three thousand lives are lost; 225,000 men, women and children are left homeless; and 28,000 buildings are destroyed, including Sacred Heart High School and St. Vincent’s school for girls.
St. Vincent’s school is rebuilt and moves three more times before landing at the corner of Gough and Geary in 1938. This is a time of reconstruction and architectural achievements for Sacred Heart, St. Vincent’s and for the city of San Francisco. Only a year earlier, history is made when the Golden Gate Bridge project is completed and cars cross to and from Marin for the first time.
In 1966, the St. Vincent’s facility on Gough is razed to build St. Mary’s Cathedral. St. Vincent’s school is rebuilt adjacent to St. Mary’s Cathedral and renamed Cathedral High School.
The very next year, in 1967, Cathedral High School and Sacred Heart High School start to work together with an understanding of the similarity of their missions and their shared vision to better serve their youth. By 1987, the merger of both schools is complete and the unified school is renamed Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.
Today, SHC continues its tradition of growing with the times and with the city. San Francisco is known globally to be on the cutting edge of technological advances. SHC reflects this energy through a commitment to technology in the classroom, cutting-edge curriculum and enthusiastic, innovative teachers developing the leaders of tomorrow.