Dominicans first came to San Francisco in 1850 when the Most Reverend Joseph Sadoc Alemany, Father Sadoc Francis Vilarrasa and Mother Mary of the Cross Goemere arrived from Spain via several other appointments in the United States. Bishop Alemany had been appointed Bishop of Monterey and invited Fr. Vilarrasa to accompany him to California. The Archdiocese of San Francisco was created in 1853 and Archbishop Alemany was its first incumbent.
The first Dominican Priory in San francisco was established in 1863 at Van Ness and Broadway to provide a center for the friars who were given charge of the new parish of Saint Brigid. The Dominicans served there until 1875 when it was transferred to diocesan clergy. During this time, Dominicans served the parishes of Saint Francis of Assisi and Notre Dame des Victoires as well.
In 1863, the Dominican order paid $6,000 for the city block bounded by Steiner, Bush, Pierce and Pine Streets. During 1872 and 1873, Fr. Vilarrasa and the Provincial Council approved the expenditure of $25,000 to build a priory and a church. The first Saint Dominic's, a small church at the corner of Bush and Steiner Streets, was blessed on June 29, 1873. The Priory of Saint Dominic was formally established in 1876.
By 1880, it was apparent that the church was too small for its rapidly growing congregation. Plans were drawn for a much larger church to be built of brick on the same site. The first church was moved to a location on Pine Street where it served as a parish hall. Although the cornerstone of the second church was laid in 1883, years of financial hardship followed and the church did not open until 1887 and was not completed for several years after. It served the parish until April 18, 1906.
During the months following the great earthquake, parishioners gathered for Mass outdoors until, in October 1906, a wooden church opened on the Pierce Street side of the block. This "temporary" Saint Dominic's was to remain in use as a church until 1928 and as a parish hall until the 1960's when it was finally torn down.
Work did not begin on the fourth Saint Dominic's until 1923. Archbishop Hanna blessed the new church after construction was finished in 1928. Even then, work continued for many years as the building we know now was brought to completion at the time of Saint Dominic's centennial celebration in 1973.
The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 destroyed the beautiful "lantern" of Saint Dominic's tower. The tower itself was severely damaged, but was repaired and strengthened during the two months the church was closed. Much of the decorative work on the ceiling beams of the church fell during the quake and the remainder was removed for the safety of the parishioners.
As early as 1984, engineering tests had determined that the church was seismically unstable. Work began immediately to find a solution and a way to pay for it. The Saint Dominic's Preservation and Restoration Project began its work in 1986. By June 1991, sufficient funds had been raised to begin the construction of nine flying buttresses that rise from concrete piers deep underground and soar to connect at a ring beam that girdles the church at the roof line. This medieval concept was found to be the best solution to a late 20th century problem. But the cost was in 1992 dollars: $6.6 million. Parishioners and friends from around the world confirmed the importance of this Church by raising all the needed funds.
Construction was completed in July 1992, and Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco dedicated Saint Dominic's Church on August 1, 1992.
1850 - Dominicans arrive in San Francisco
1853 - Archdiocese of San Francisco is created.
1854 - Cathedral of St. Mary (Old St. Mary's) is built.
1863 - First Dominican Priory in San Francisco is established.
1863 - Dominican order pays $6,000 for the city block bounded by Steiner, Bush, Pierce and Pine Streets
1870 - The first St. Dominic's Church at the corner of Bush & Steiner is blessed.
1876 - The Priory of St. Dominic is formally established.
1883 - The cornerstone of the second St. Dominic's Church is laid.
1887 - Second St. Dominic's church opens.
1906 - The Great Earthquake destroys St. Dominic's Church. Mass is held outdoors until October of 1906, a wooden church (third church) opnes on the Pierce Street side of the block.
1923 - Construction begins on fourth St. Dominic's Church.
1928 - Fourth St. Dominic's Church is completed.
1973 - St. Dominic's Centennial Celebration
1984 - Engineering tests determine St. Dominic's Church is seismically unstable.
1986 - St. Dominic's Preservation and Restoration Project begins.
1991 - Sufficient funds raised to begin construction of nine flying buttresses. Cost: $6.6 million
1992 - Construction is completed. Archbishop John R. Quinn dedicates St. Dominic's Church on August 1, 1992.
1998 - Phase II of the Restoration Begins.
2000 - St. Dominic's celebrates the Millennium Jubilee with a Solemn Mass at Midnight on January 1st.
2002 - On August 13th, the Novitiate of the Western Dominican Province is moved to St. Dominic's. 10 men begin their formation as future Dominican frairs.