San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark 286: Sunshine School

San Francisco Landmark 286: Sunshine School
21 April 2023
(Click Photos to Enlarge)

San Francisco Landmark #286
Sunshine School
AKA Hilltop High School
2728 Bryant Street
Built 1935-1937

The former Sunshine School was funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA) during the Golden Age of school construction in San Francisco. Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style with Moorish and Art Deco detailing, it was built frugally of board‐formed concrete with modest molded concrete ornament.

The Sunshine School was the first purpose‐built public “orthopedic” school west of the Rockies. With a barrier‐free ground floor, the building anticipated the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

The school was designed to house two separate special needs populations. Children with physical disabilities were instructed on the first floor level, where they had access to a therapeutic pool and a specially designed gymnasium. Children with chronic and acute illnesses had quarters on the second floor, where they could recuperate in open‐air rooms and eat nutritious meals made at nearby San Francisco General Hospital in their own dining room.

The Sunshine School served its original purposes until the 1970s, when disability rights groups successfully lobbied to have special needs children assigned to mainstream schools.

Source: Adapted from the Sunshine School Landmark Designation Report approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on March 5, 2019.


When we photogrphed the building, it housed the Hilltop High School, the Family Service Agency of San Francisco and the Family Developmental Center.


National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933

President Franklin Roosevelt came into office during the worst depression the nation had ever known. Fulfilling a campaign promise to put people to work, he instituted the New Deal to bring economic recovery to the depression-wrought country.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 authorized the Public Works Administration (PWA) to provide jobs, stimulate business activity, and increase purchasing power through the construction of permanent and socially useful public works. The Federal Government and local city, county and state governments formed a working partnership resulting in the greatest single construction program in history.

PWA construction projects, in addition to providing employment for the skilled, generated a volume of jobs for the unskilled. The PWA provided loans and grants up to forty percent of the total cost of the project to states, and many other public bodies, including schools.

From 1933-1935, the PWA underwrote projects in 3,040 of the 3,073 counties in all forty-eight states. Of the 3.76 billion dollars of the NIRA fund, 2.56 billion dollars was spent on 19,004 construction projects.

Narrative adapted in part from the NRHP nomination for Tulare Union High School Auditorium and Administration Building dated 16 November 1999.

Many buildings funded by the PWA have been recognized for their historic significance and architectural excellence. Among them are:


Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in San Diego
Aquatic Park in San Francisco
Beach Chalet Murals in San Francisco
Big Basin Redwood State Park Headquarters Building
Big Creek Bridge in Big Sur
Feather River Scenic Byway Tunnels

Federal Building in Merced
Federal Writers and Artists Projects in San Francisco
Gasquet Ranger Station
Mariposa County High School Auditorium
McClatchy Senior High School in Sacramento
Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas

Mountain View Adobe
Police Headquarters, Jail & Courts in San Diego
Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco
Sacramento Junior College
San Francisco State Teachers College
Sitka Main Post Office and Court House in Alaska

Sonora Youth Center
Stanislaus Forest Experiment Station
Sunshine School in San Francisco
The Fort in Taft
Theodore Judah School in Sacramento
Tulare Union High School


Carson City Civic Auditorium
Hoover Dam
Southside School in Reno
Tonopah Main Post Office
USO Building in Hawthorne
Yerington Main Post Office

New Mexico

National Park Service Southwest Regional Office in Santa Fe
New Mexico School for the Deaf Building 2 in Santa Fe
New Mexico School for the Deaf Hospital in Santa Fe
New Mexico Supreme Court in Santa Fe


Butte Falls Ranger Station in Butte Falls
Dead Indian Soda Springs Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Fish Lake Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Gold Beach Ranger Station
Lake of the Woods Ranger Station in Fremont-Winema National Forest
Lithia Park in Ashland

McKee Bridge Campground in Rogue River National Forest
Wrangle Gap Shelter in Rogue River National Forest

Bryce Canyon Airport
Dalton Wells Civilian Conservation Corps
Minersville City Hall
Rock House in Arches National Park

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