San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) in San Anselmo, California, is the only Presbyterian seminary in the West. It was founded in 1871 in San Francisco under the guidance of Dr. William Anderson Scott. In the 1880s, the Board of Directors began to look for a site for a larger campus and were encouraged to consider Marin County, north of the Golden Gate, for the new site.

Arthur Foster, president of the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad, and the son-in-law of Dr. Scott, bought land in San Anselmo at auction and donated 14 acres on what was then called Richmond Hill to the seminary. San Francisco financier Alexander Montgomery’s contributions enabled the seminary to begin development of the San Anselmo campus in 1891 with the construction of Montgomery and Scott Halls and faculty houses. Noted architect of the day, John Wright, was hired to design the new buildings. The dedication was held in September 1892, and the campus opened with six faculty members and about twenty students. Andrew C. Strachan enrolled just 5 years later.

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Montgomery Hall, left in these two 1895 photographs, was originally used for student living quarters; each room had a fireplace for heating, and students had to carry their own coal up from the basement. Andrew Strachan’s room while studying at SFTS was located here. Scott Hall, right, originally held the library and classrooms.

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This is Andrew C. Strachan in his room in Montgomery Hall. He was one of eight students in the class of 1900, five of whom were from the west coast and two from the mid-west. He seems to have enjoyed his years at SFTS, with its distinguished faculty and fine library, as later in life he corresponded with Seminary President Warren Landon expressing his desire to “spend a winter again in sunny California.”
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The surrounding area was sparsely populated when SFTS moved to San Anselmo. Gradually, change came when faculty homes were built and occupied. SFTS had a strong and conservative impact on San Anselmo for many of the town's early years. Today, SFTS offers numerous degree and special programs and has over 200 students from around the world. Its stunning buildings are architecturally and historically significant and are town landmarks. An aerial video of the Seminary Hill posted to YouTube on January 7, 2015 illustrates just how much the area has changed since the turn of the twentieth century.

Judy Coy
San Anselmo Historical Museum