SFSU Campus Turns 50
Photos by Lui Gino de Grandis
years ago, San Francisco State College held its first
official semester of classes at its new home at 19th and Holloway. Poet
W.H. Auden read at the official dedication ceremony on Oct. 16, 1954,
in Cox Stadium.
Some 6,500 students were enrolled that fall. "Everybody knew each
other," recalls Professor Emeritus Frank Sheehan. Students dining
in the Redwood Room snack bar could purchase a slice of pie for 20 cents
and a cup of coffee for a dime. The school bulletin discouraged "leisure
dress" in the classroom and reminded students that "jeans
are for dirty jobs only." Kampus Kapers was a popular annual variety
A lot has changed during the past 50 years, says Norma Siani, SFSU director
of special events. In 1954, she was a student working inside the tiny
building that housed the school’s Student Health Service. "If
anyone needed to come out on a gurney, we had to open a window,"
Siani remembers the excitement surrounding pep rallies and homecoming
dances. And back then, she says, parking was a breeze. "Everybody
just parked in the middle of campus. … It was just a big sand
The move to 19th and Holloway was the third for San Francisco State.
In 1899, the San Francisco State Normal School first opened its doors
on Powell between Clay and Sacramento streets. In 1906, after the school
was destroyed by earthquake and fire, a second campus was established
at Waller and Buchanan streets.
Dorothy Kuhn-Tarkington, a member of the Class of 1944, remembers the
official groundbreaking at Lake Merced: "The band of fog was so
thick and dense. We were freezing cold, but it didn’t matter.
We were all excited."
According to Sheehan, several other areas were considered before San
Francisco State found its permanent home. The Marina district was rejected
due to its proximity to the young men stationed at The Presidio, he
says with a smile: "It was decided they were too close to the young
women at State."