The Center SF is proud to be located in the rectory of a historic landmark building formerly known as the Sacred Heart Church.
The Sacred Heart Church, along with its rectory, school building, and convent, are the four buildings that comprise the Sacred Heart complex (though only the church building with its towering campanile was nominated for the National Register). Two blocks from the historic Alamo Square, the imposing Sacred Heart Complex stands near the crest of a hill and is visible from much of San Francisco’s seven-mile radius.
Designed by Thomas John Welsh and constructed for the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco is 1897, Sacred Heart Church expresses the individuality and variation of features that occur within both early and late Romanesque Revival churches in San Francisco. Some of the church’s telling design elements include its gable-roofed façade, west-facing portico supported by Tuscan order columns, square campanile with arcaded openings and pyramidal roof, arcaded corbel table below the eaves of the nave, string courses on the nave and bell tower that mark the horizontal divisions between floors, and smooth-faced, monochromatic brick cladding.
Romanesque Revival originated in the early 19th century in Munich, Germany, which was inspired by medieval and early Christian Romanesque cathedrals of the 11th and 12th centuries. In the United States, Romanesque Revival buildings are designed simpler than their European counterparts.
Common features of the US style include: molded semicircular arches for window and door openings, molded belt courses that divide the exterior into horizontal bands, the Lombard band (a series of miniature arches located below the eaves), column capitals and compound arches enriched with geometric Medieval or Byzantine-inspired ornament, and gabled roofs flanked by square or polygonal towers of differing heights and capped with pyramidal roofs. The typical plan for Romanesque Revival churches is Basilican, with long, narrow naves, vestibules, central towers, or paired side towers, and self-contained massing. Most favored were broad, smooth wall surfaces of monochromatic brick or ashlar masonry laid with thin mortar joints.
In the 19th century U.S., new churches, schools, and public buildings were increasingly designed in an imposing variant of the Romanesque Revival style. Diplomats, theologians, educational reformers, clergymen, and rulers supported Romanesque Revival architecture in large part because of the style’s many associations with the staunch faith and communal solidarity of the early Christian era.
There were two phases of Romanesque Revival in the United States. Early Romanesque Revival structures of the 1840s-1850s resembled their Gothic predecessors with accurate interpretations of early Medieval forms. The best-known example is the Smithsonian Institution in Washington built between 1846 and 1855.
A later phase, Richardsonian Romanesque, originated in the 1870s in the work of the Boston-based architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who attended Harvard and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was inspired by Romanesque architecture in Spain and the south of France, and also experimented with a variety of other sources to create his own unique style typically characterized as massive, weighty buildings clad in polychromed and rough-hewn stone, and punctuated by Syrian arches and sculpted Byzantine capitals.
Richardsonian Romanesque was not used in San Francisco until the late 1880s, and although known by local architects, the style was not initially embraced due to its cost and usage of earthquake-prone masonry construction. Most early examples were designed by out-of-state architects, particularly Burnham & Root, who were early adopters of the style in their hometown of Chicago.
The Sacred Heart complex survived both the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, as well as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake with only cosmetic damage.
The parish, once dominated by a large Irish-Catholic community, became heavily African-American after World War II. Later—by the turn of the millennium—influxes of Latinos, Filipinos, and gays created one of the most diverse congregations in San Francisco! Nevertheless, the Archdiocese decided to close Sacred Heart in 2004, citing the high cost of seismic repairs.
In 2005, the property was sold to a private owner who intended to reuse the buildings in the complex as a charter school, but the school was never fully operational in this location. Currently, the complex, including the church, now stands vacant [as of January 2012], except for the convent, which houses a 24-person artist collective, and the rectory as the home of The Center SF.
Today, The Center SF is a collective community with a mission to unite mind, body, and spirit for the purpose of transformation and celebration. We offer our multidisciplinary three-part developmental-space for classes, workshops, and events such as (but not limited to) yoga, meditation, martial arts, massage, and other healing arts, festivals, open mics, E.F.T. sessions, and much more in our beautiful bamboo studio, tea lounge, parlor, industrial kitchen, and five healing sanctuary offices. Our event spaces are available to rent for private and public events—please see our Rental Pricing, and feel free to contact us directly with other questions and concerns.