Sixty years ago the Conservatory moved from the location of its founding, 3435 Sacramento Street to 1201 Ortega Street. The Conservatory would stay at Ortega Street for fifty years, and move to its current home at 50 Oak Street in 2006.
Before becoming the Conservatory, the Ortega Street building was an Infant Shelter. The Infant Shelter was founded in 1874 and was originally located at 512 Minna Street. After the 1906 earthquake it was relocated to 1025 Shotwell.
The building on Ortega Street was designed for the Infant Shelter by architect Louis Christian Mullgardt. Mullgardt was born in Missouri, apprenticed in St. Louis, and worked in Boston, Chicago, and in England before arriving in the Bay Area. The Infant Shelter building was constructed in 1928-1929, and was designed in the Mission Revival style, with terra cotta, brick, bronze, and painted stucco and wood.
1201 Ortega Street as the Infant Shelter, SFCM Library & Archives
In 1956, the Conservatory’s President was Albert Elkus. In an oral history conducted with Albert’s son Jonathan Elkus in 2012, Jonathan remembered of the building:
“I remember my first impression of the location, the first look at the building: my gosh, what a marvelous funky thing this is, you know? I liked it, I think everybody did.”
Trustee Emerita Kris Getz joined the Conservatory as a volunteer in the late 1950s, when it had newly arrived at the Ortega Street building. Among many other projects for the Conservatory, Kris created a garden courtyard in memory of her late husband, which was enjoyed by staff, faculty, students and audience members over the years. Of the courtyard, Kris remembered:
“It was very worthwhile, because it was beautiful when everything grew up. I remember Conrad [Susa] taught a class in one of those classrooms that had a door, he would open it up and I would be able to hear him. I told him, “I’m really enjoying your lectures, Conrad!” I had some wonderful meetings with people out there, or because of the garden – the openness of it.”
Fifty years of memories were created at the Ortega Street building, some of which are now preserved in interviews conducted for our Oral History Project with former faculty, staff, students and trustees. As we move closer to our centennial in 2017, we look forward to hearing more memories of Ortega Street from our community, and sharing them via our archives pages!