San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark 2: Old Saint Mary's Church Chinatown and Old Saint Mary's Church
Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil. Ecclesiasticus 4:23
Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil.
Ecclesiasticus 4:23
4 January 2004
(Click Photos to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #2
Old St. Mary's Church
660 California Street at Grant
Financial District
Built 1854
Rebuilt 1909

Old St. Mary's Church was the first church erected as a Roman Catholic Cathedral in California and is the second oldest church in San Francisco that is still in use. In 1891, a new St. Mary's Church was built on Van Ness Avenue to replace Old St. Mary's Church as the cathedral.

The brick building is Victorian Gothic in style. The stone foundations were cut to order in China. The bricks came from New England. The original design included a two hundred foot spire which was never built.

The built tower is ninety feet high. The plinth, embrasure caps, buttresses, tower door, mouldings and crockets, as well as the corbels of the windows, are of cut stone. The pinnacles and parapet of the tower are also of cut stone.

The tower clock has four dials, facing the four cardinal points of the compass. The tower also sports Spanish coats of arms and a Rose window of art glass on Grant Avenue.

Old Saint Mary's Church was not damaged by the 1906 Earthquake, but it was burned out in the fire. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1909. In 1966 there was a fire in the attic. Serious water damage caused the church to be closed for nines months of renovation.

When it was built, the church was the most prominent landmark in the young City. It stands today as one of the few visible links with the Days of Gold. Facing in one direction the commercial district of the City, and in the other Chinatown, it unites the East and the West, the Occident and the Orient, and in its congregation, the cosmopolitan population of our City.

Adapted from City Planning Commission Resolution 6162 dated 30 November 1967

The second Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, which was dedicated on 11 January 1891, was destroyed by an arson fire on 7 September 1962.

A third Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption was built at 1111 Gough Street in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone is the Ninth Archbishop of San Francisco.

The cathedral's gift shop is open daily except for Christmas Day, New Year's Day and National Holidays.

Old St. Mary's Church remains an active parish serving Chinatown and Nob Hill. The Paulist Fathers have served the church since 1901.

Old St. Mary's Church is also California Landmark 810.

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