The Evolution of Alchemy...

Alchemy, located at 200 Buchanan Street, was once the campus of several
educational institutions, including the San Francisco Normal School (1899 – 1921),
San Francisco State Teacher’s College (1921 – 1935), San Francisco State College
(1935 – 1957), University of California Berkeley Laguna Extension (1957 – 2001),
and the French-American International School (1973-2003). A series of information
display boards located throughout the property at 200 Buchanan Street / 55 Laguna Street
describe the history of the campus, its occupants, its buildings,
and the Works Progress Administration artists that adorned the buildings.


The six-acre parcel bordered by Buchanan, Haight, Hermann and Laguna Streets is first purchased at public auction for $100.


The San Francisco Protestant Orphan Asylum is constructed at the intersection of Haight and Buchanan Streets. It is the first social service agency in the State of California.


Earthquake and fires damage the orphanage and destroy much of eastern San Francisco. The State Normal School, a teacher’s college that would eventually morph into San Francisco State University, relocates to the southern half of the site.

San Francisco Protestant Orphan Asylum


The San Francisco Protestant Orphan Asylum moves to another location in the city. The land is sold back to the City and the original stone structure is razed.


Four new buildings, designed by state architect George McDougall in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, are constructed to meet the growing needs of San Francisco State Teacher’s College.


The Works Progress Administration provides funding and commissions several important murals throughout the property. Maxine Albro’s mosaic at the corner of Haight and Buchanan did not survive.

About Us

Reuben Kadesh’s A Dissertation on Alchemy mural can be seen at the top of the stairs of the now Haight Street Art Center located at 215 Haight Street. He was one of five artists commissioned by the federal government’s Works Program Administration (WPA) to create murals at the San Francisco State College.

A Dissertation on Alchemy draws its subject matter from the original use of Woods Hall Annex as the science facility for the College. It is considered one of the best examples of Kadish’s work and is the inspiration for the projects name: Alchemy by Alta.

San Francisco State University


San Francisco State Teacher’s College relocates to a new campus by Lake Merced and assumes its current name: San Francisco State University.

The City of San Francisco reaches an agreement with the University of California Regents to establish the UC Berkeley Extension Campus on the recently vacated site.

San Francisco State University


The French American School leases a portion of the campus, where they would remain until 2003.

Alta Laguna


Construction begins on Alta Laguna on the 5.8-acre, 2-block site bounded by Laguna, Buchanan, Haight and Hermann. Formerly home to the UC Berkeley Extension campus, the location lay dormant for more than a decade, while plans for a new housing complex were stalled by various financial and political challenges.

55 Laguna is actually comprised of two developments. The larger one will feature 330 rental units, 50 of which will be offered below market rate. The units will be spread across five new buildings, plus the repurposed remnants of the historic Woods Hall facade at Haight and Buchanan.

Alchemy by Alta


After more than a decade, a 330-unit apartment complex that was built on a former UC Berkeley Extension site in Hayes Valley began leasing.

The $117 million project, built by developer Wood Partners and called “Alchemy by Alta,” offers 280 market-rate units and 50 below-market-rate units designed by BAR architecture