San Francisco Polytechnic High School

Former school in California, United States

San Francisco Polytechnic High School
Art deco gymnasium

Former girls’ gymnasium of San Francisco Polytechnic

701 Frederick Street


United States

Type Public secondary
Established 1883 (1883)
Closed 1973
School district San Francisco Unified School District
Grades 9–12
Campus type Urban
Color(s) red and black
Mascot Parrot

San Francisco Polytechnic High School was a public secondary school in San Francisco, California. Located from 1912 at 701 Frederick Street, across from Kezar Stadium, the school was in operation from 1884 until 1973.


The school opened in 1884 as the Commercial School, on Powell Street between Clay and Sacramento. It subsequently moved to Bush and Stockton Streets. Academic subjects were added to the curriculum in 1890 and art and shop in 1895, when it was renamed San Francisco Polytechnic High School.[1] The building was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, and replaced in 1911 by a classical revival building on Frederick Street,[2] which opened in 1915; a “manual and shop training” building facing Carl Street opened in 1912.[1] Later additions included a boys’ and a girls’ gymnasium in art deco style, at opposite ends of the school.[3] During this period the school had 2,000 students, more than any other in the city.[1]

In the 1960s an influx of black families led to an option system under which many white parents elected to send their children instead to Lowell High School, San Francisco Polytechnic’s traditional rival;[4] by the late 1960s San Francisco Polytechnic was more than 50% African American and Filipino. The first black principal, Nathaniel Brooks, was appointed in spring 1968 and the numbers of black teachers and Black studies courses were increased after student protests about a letter to the Superintendent of Education from teachers complaining about the students.[5] However, in 1972 the decision was made to close the school because of a continuing decline in enrollment and because all the buildings, except the girls’ gym, were found not to meet the requirements of the Field Act for seismic soundness.[3] In 1973 the school closed and students were transferred to the new McAteer High School.[5][4] The school was the temporary home of Mission High School from 1973 to 1977.[4]

Squatters occupied the buildings in the 1980s; in 1989 all except the two gyms were demolished and replaced by the Parkview Commons condominium development.[3] The cornerstone was stolen during demolition.[6] As of January 2018 the boys’ gym houses the San Francisco Circus Center and the girls’, AcroSports.[3] In November 2020 the Polytechnic Alumni Association offered a sizable reward for the return of its lost athletic trophies. The sports trophies are engraved and of various styles (loving cup, sculpture, plaque). Most are one to three feet tall. Please forward any information to [email protected]

More than 50,000 people were at Kezar Stadium for the 1928 city championship game between San Francisco Polytechnic and its traditional rival Lowell High School, the highest attendance for a high-school football game in northern California.[3]

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Luis Walter Alvarez, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics
  • Warner Baxter, Academy Award winning Best Actor, 1928
  • Tad Dorgan, cartoonist
  • Paul Desmond, musician
  • George Fenneman, announcer[6]
  • Janet Gaynor, actress and painter[7]
  • Edward Ginzton, physicist[8]
  • Louis Macouillard, artist[9]
  • Alice Marble, International Tennis Hall of Fame
  • Robert S. Pastorino, diplomat
  • Merl Saunders, musician[10]
  • Barry Shabaka Henley, actor[11]
  • Rudy Rintala (1909-1999), four-sport star athlete at Stanford University during the 1930s[12]
  • George Seifert, former NFL coach[13]
  • Bob St. Clair, former San Francisco 49ers player and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee[14]
  • Martha Wash, singer[15]
  • Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense[16]
  • Victor Willis, Village People lead singer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gaar, Greg; et al. (July 2005) [September 1984]. “The Rise and Fall of Polytechnic High School Part 1: ‘The Finest School in San Francisco’ (PDF). Perennial Parrot. “Our Gang” Polytechnic High School Alumni Association. 18 (1): 1–2.
  2. ^ “Polytechnic High School Gymnasiums, 639 and 755 Frederick Street, Built 1929 and 1937”. Noehill: San Francisco Points of Historical Interest. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bevk, Alex (January 11, 2013). “Then & Now: Polytechnic High School’s Gynmasiums [sic] Still Standing Strong”. Curbed San Francisco. Vox.
  4. ^ a b c Gaar, Greg; et al. (December 2005) [September 1984]. “The Rise and Fall of Polytechnic High School Part 2: ‘The Death of a Great High School’ (PDF). Perennial Parrot. “Our Gang” Polytechnic High School Alumni Association. 18 (2): 1–3.
  5. ^ a b Wagner, Venise (October 4, 1996). “Poly High alums seek spirit of ’68”. San Francisco Examiner – via San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ a b “$1,500 reward offered in theft of cornerstone”. Spartanburg Herald-Journal. December 9, 1987. p. A2.
  7. ^ Parish, James Robert (1971). The Fox Girls. Arlington House. p. 50. ISBN 0-870-00128-0.
  8. ^ “Edward Leonard Ginzton”. Biographical Memoirs. Vol. 88. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. 2006. p. 110. ISBN 0-309-10389-4. Less than four years later he graduated from San Francisco’s Polytechnic High School….
  9. ^ “Louis Macouillard”. FAMSF Explore the Art. 2015-05-08. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  10. ^ “San Francisco Musician Merl Saunders Dies at 74”. KTVU. 2008-10-24. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. But Saunders jammed for decades, starting at San Francisco’s Polytechnic High School….
  11. ^ Vigil, Delfin (2007-06-03). “An acting pioneer”. San Francisco Chronicle.
  12. ^ “Rudolph Alexander Rintala,” San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 14, 1999, pg. A25.
  13. ^ “49ers quarterbacks coach thankful to be alive after 1960 plane crash”. Contra Costa Times. 2003-11-27. Marinai, a teammate of George Seifert’s at San Francisco Polytechnic High School….
  14. ^ Maiocco, Matt; Fucillo, David (2011). San Francisco 49ers: Where Have You Gone? Joe Montana, Y.A. Tittle, Steve Young, and other 49ers greats. New York: Sports Publications. p. 32. ISBN 9781613210451.
  15. ^ Knight, Heather (October 28, 2005). “Johnny Land—students’ musical muse”. SF Gate. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  16. ^ “A Career of Service and History”. The Library of Congress Information Bulletin. May 2007. His early interest in politics is shown by … items he kept … during his time as a student at San Francisco Polytechnic High School in the 1930s.

External links[edit]