Officially known as the Old Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, this cathedral at California Street and Grant was built in 1853 and has served as the main church of San Francisco’s Catholic community until its role was replaced by the larger Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Cathedral Hill.
Having survived the 1906 earthquake, the cathedral succumbed to the subsequent conflagration, a raging fire so hot it melted the church bells and marble altar. It has since been renovated, and it now serves as a parish church for the Chinatown and Nob Hill communities.
The historic landmark is a prominent attraction, immediately noticeable for visitors passing through San Francisco’s Chinatown. More notably, Old Saint Mary’s survived through the tumultuous days of the Barbary Coast, and the inscription on its façade, “Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil,” was meant as a reminder for those who might indulge in any of the many sins of the criminal-friendly quarter.