History, Tradition & Heritage » Saint Mary's History

Saint Mary's History


1863 – Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany founds Saint Mary’s College and its high school department on Old Mission Road in San Francisco to educate young men. The cornerstone for the new Catholic school had been laid on August 3, 1862.  Alemany blessed the new school on July 9, 1863, and classes began the following month.  A State historical plaque marks the site of the campus at the end of Mission Street and several area street names reference the school’s history .

1868 – At Alemany’s invitation, the Christian Brothers take over operation of the failing College, arriving in San Francisco by steamer from New York City via Panama on August 10, 1868.  The Brothers establish the new District of San Francisco, joining the American Districts of Baltimore (1845), New York (1848), and New Orleans (1851).

1870 – The Brothers establish St. Joseph’s Academy at 5th and Madison near the harbor in Oakland for boys in grades 1-9.  The Brothers would also serve in five parish schools in Oakland:  St . Anthony’s, St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, St. Patrick’s, and St. Francis De Sales.  Brothers’ schools would be established up and down the Pacific coast in the years that followed.

1889 – The College moves across the Bay to larger facilities at 30th and Broadway in Oakland.  The new school building, affectionately known as “The Brickpile,” burns in 1894, is damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and burns again in 1918.  After the 1894 fire, classes returned to the Mission Road site for two years until repairs to the Brickpile were completed .

1903 – St. Joseph’s Academy moves to Peralta Park, Berkeley.  The school opens August 1 and is housed in the magnificent Peralta Park Hotel built in 1888, referred to by the Brothers as “the Palace.”  Peralta Park is a 12.5 acre plot that was part of the original 48,000-acre Spanish land grant of 1820 to Don Luis Maria Peralta.  A state historical marker at 1302 Albina Avenue describes the site of an adobe home on the banks of Codornices Creek that belonged to Jose Domingo Peralta, one of Luis’ sons, whose portion of the land grant covered most of present-day Berkeley and Emeryville.

1927 – Having outgrown the Oakland facilities, the high school department separates from Saint Mary’s College and moves to Peralta Park in Berkeley and the newly-built 51,000 square foot De La Salle Hall.  The College moves the next year (1928) to Moraga, and the venerable old Brickpile school building in Oakland is demolished.  College alumni placed a bronze plaque at the site at 3093 Broadway and Hawthorne in 1959 .

1946 – The south tower of The Palace burns in a spectacular fire and the top two floors have to be razed.

1948 – The gymnasium is erected, later named in honor of Brother Ivan Carleton, FSC (1939-1966) .

1956 – St. Joseph’s Hall is built to house the high school and junior high school boarding students and the school library.

1959 – The Palace is completely razed and Cronin Hall is completed to house the grammar school.  The building is named for Leo Cronin, AFSC (1905-1975), teacher.  Vellesian Hall is built on the banks of Codornices Creek as lodging for campus workers.  Brother Vellesian Mallon, FSC was the President of the High School when it moved to Peralta Park .

1969 – St. Joseph’s Academy grammar school moves to Mont La Salle, Napa, and becomes a residence school for boys in grades five through eight.  The boarding department for grammar, junior high, and high school students at Peralta Park is closed after sixty-six years.

1973 – De La Salle Hall, built in 1927, is razed as an earthquake hazard and a campus Master Plan is created.  The new track is installed, unique for its three-point configuration and as the first all-weather high school track in the area .

1977 – The Student Center is completed, named for Brother Aloysius Shea, FSC (1906-1980), teacher and administrator at Saint Mary’s from 1936 to 1966.

1978 – The Brothers’ Residence is completed as part of the campus Master Plan.

1986 – The new science and math classroom building is completed, named in honor of donor Harold B . Murphy, ’41, and teachers Brother Timothy Diener, FSC, and Brother Eugene Ward, FSC.

1995 – The gymnasium extension with its new auditorium theatre is completed as part of the Sharing the Spirit campaign for coeducation.  Parking lots on both sides of campus were completed in 1995 (Posen) and 1996 (main lot).

1995 – Saint Mary’s welcomes young women to its freshmen and sophomore classes in its first year of coeducation .

2002 – Frates Memorial Hall opens, providing eight new classrooms and an amphitheater, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Frank E. Frates, Jr., ’27 and donors to the Creating Futures campaign.

2007 –  Saint Mary’s celebrates 80 years at the Peralta Park campus .

2008 – Saint Mary’s celebrates the 145th anniversary of its founding and breaks ground for Thomas M. Brady track and field.

2013 – Saint Mary’s College High School celebrates the 150th Anniversary of its founding.

2015 – Upgrading and a full-scale renovation of the classrooms, restrooms, and lockers was completed in 2014. Brennan Hall is dedicated, named for Brother David Brennan.

2020 – Upgrading and a full-scale renovation of the Shea Center kitchen and restrooms was completed in 2021. 

2023 – Upgrading and a full maintenance renovation of the Cross Plaza at the center of Saint Mary's.