Then & Now: Scott Hall on Seminary Hill

Scott Hall, before 1906

Scott Hall, before 1906

Scott Hall, 2010

Scott Hall, 2010

Scott Hall, standing atop Seminary Hill, was one of the first buildings constructed when San Francisco Theological Seminary moved to San Anselmo. It was named for Seminary founder William Anderson Scott and, along with its neighbor Montgomery Hall, was designed by John Wright, a noted and prolific San Francisco architect. The building was completed in 1892. The Richardsonian Romanesque (or also called Scottish Baronial) building was built of “Blue Stone” quarried in the Gerstle Park area of San Rafael. The lighter-colored stones, used for trim, came from San Jose by horse-drawn wagons. Stone masons cut and laid the stones by hand. The builders were William Barr of San Rafael (woodwork) and J. McKay of San Francisco (stonework).

Scott Hall originally held the library and classrooms. It had a turret tower with clocks on each side. During the great earthquake of 1906, these parts of the tower toppled. Seminary groundskeeper Alexander Bouick and his family ran from their nearby farmhouse just in time to hear the great crashing sound as the tower fell through the glass-domed library, through the assembly hall, and into the basement two floors beneath.

After the 1906 earthquake, Scott Hall tower was rebuilt on a smaller scale, minus the clocks. Some of the stones salvaged from the rubble line the paths and lawn beds in front of Montgomery Hall and were used in the construction of walls in front of homes along Austin Avenue.

Sadly, architect John Wright lived to see most of his work destroyed, as the vast majority of his buildings were constructed in the heart of the commercial and financial districts of San Francisco, in the path of the fires which followed the 1906 earthquake. More than 70 of his churches, offices, and grand residences were destroyed, and the Seminary buildings which he designed are among the few remaining.

Scott Hall was damaged again in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and was vacant until the late 1990s when it and Montgomery Hall were restored and made seismically safe. The project received a Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation. Today, Scott Hall houses classrooms and the Student Center.

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