Historical Corner: St. Joseph’s Building Marks 55th Anniversary

By Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration and OLP Historian

As OLP begins its Boundless campaign, I thought we should look back at the construction of St. Joseph’s building. In OLP’s Archives, is the initial letter that the principal, Sister Aileen Francis Pidge, sent to OLP parents on February 23, 1959.

In it, she lays out the need for a building that would have eight classrooms, including a Science laboratory for Physics, Chemistry and Biology a library, an art room, an audio-visual room, a bathroom, and a social hall. She told the parents that she had met with a small group of parents, alumnae, and friends of OLP to see if they supported this new building. She assured the current parents that 100% of the people at the meeting were enthusiastic and voted to begin fundraising.

Fundraising in 1959 meant that some parents actually set out on a door-to-door fundraising effort. Among those hoofing, the neighborhoods was Ms. Wiedower’s father. A dinner was held to raise funds and was attended by TV actor Bob Denver of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and then as Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island. Paderewski, Dean and Associates, a prominent firm, were the architects who designed the building. David l. Tennebaum was the chief architect of the project. Incidentally, the original blueprints are on campus. The work was done with City approval on Villa Lots 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and a portion of 42; OLP is described as being located in University Heights.

Photos in our Archives indicate that the art cottage was torn down to allow for the construction to begin. The Art Room was located near the west side of the campus near what was then known as St. Margaret’s (now Qualiato). The interior of the art room was constructed of red bricks. The new building’s foundations were laid in October.

The actual construction began in October and was completed on September 1, 1964, meaning that 2019 marks the 55th anniversary of the building. At its completion, Sister Evelyn Joseph Flynn had succeeded Sister Aileen Francis as the principal. It is Sister Evelyn Joseph who signed the city’s Certificate of Occupancy on October 7, 1964. This document indicates that the construction competed on September 1, 1964, and that Riha Constriction Company had done the work.

The building was formally dedicated on Thursday, June 3, 1965, by San Diego Bishop Francis J. Furey. The dedication began at 3 PM and was followed immediately by Commencement. In closing, I quote from Sister Aileen Francis’ letter. She ended her letter with a call that is familiar to all OLP alumnae and current students and their families: “Schools like our Academy just do not build themselves. They are built by men and women who want their children to have the best possible education.” Nothing has changed since 1959. Indeed, nothing has changed since 1882.