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I.M. Scott School

The oldest standing schoolhouse left in San Francisco

Built in 1895 as an annex to the original Potrero School that faced Minnesota St, the two-story Classical Revival structure that is left once connected via a breezeway to the original building.

The entire facility was renamed Irving M. Scott School in honor of the Union Iron Works partner and superintendent who donated partial funding for its construction and improvement. For these children of the rope-makers, ironworkers, coopers, butchers, grocers, and saloonkeepers, a vocational curriculum was pushed, preparing boys to follow their fathers in manual trades, while the girls learned homemaking and cooking in the first school district teaching kitchen.

 

But as was the case with the 1877 structure, the new school was woefully inadequate and rapidly needed updating. Ongoing sanitation and heating issues targeted it for closure and demolition throughout the twentieth century. Parents and neighborhood groups unsuccessfully pestered the city for improvements. Newspaper stories and reports from the Health Department frequently excoriated Irving M. Scott School for its crude latrines (in schoolyard sheds) and its antiquated and dangerous pot-bellied-stove heating system.

 

It’s a miracle the Tennessee Street building survived. It was set on fire numerous times—at least once intentionally by students. (A 1940 article began “With joy in their hearts, 210 primary pupils watched yesterday afternoon as flames curled over the roof of the Irving Scott School…

Today the City Landmark houses several education-related nonprofits as well as a preschool (in the repurposed girl's latrine shed).

 

Content adapted from to SFHeritage history on the first Potrero School.

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