Old Saint Mary Plaque


Old St. Mary's Cathedral

Located in Chinatown, Old St. Mary’s Cathedral is the oldest Chinese church in the United States. Welcoming people for almost 200 years, the building is a staple and an icon of Chinatown. But if you didn’t know the church existed, you’d probably walk right by it. Seems hard to imagine the two-story tall building was once the tallest building in San Francisco.

Constructed with a base of granite carried by ship from China, the structure of Old St. Mary’s Church has seen its fair share of history. From the tail end of the Gold Rush to the 1906 earthquake to present-day San Francisco, Old St. Mary’s has seen the growth of the famed city. After all, the building was constructed in 1853 and still remains today.

Go for a visit to view the architecture and absorb the history of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Chinatown Brick Church

During the day, you can browse inside and see the newly (since 1906) remodeled interior (after the 1906 fire destroyed the previous inside), and more importantly, you can see photos from the aftermath of the event to see how the fires destroyed San Francisco.

While visiting the church at night, you can enjoy the exterior and even ride a cable car past the landmark.

Whatever you choose, make the most of your decision. It’s hard to imagine: Old St. Mary’s Cathedral was one of the first non-brothel buildings in Chinatown.

Inside a Chinatown Church

How Do I Find Old St. Mary’s Cathedral?

  • To find Old St. Mary’s Church, start at the Chinatown Gate and walk north (toward Fisherman’s Wharf) along Grant Avenue. Look for the old-school two-story church on corner of Grant and California.
  • Use public transportation routes 1, 9x, 20, 30, 41, 45 and all cable cars. The California cable car line has a stop directly in front of the church.
  • To reach Old St. Mary’s Cathedral from Union Square you should walk. The journey takes no more than 20 minutes, even if you’re slow.

Old Saint Mary Cathedral

Orange Sky Co. says:

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Old St. Mary’s Church was once the tallest building in San Francisco. And although not much of a thriller now, it’s a good place to see historic photos of the 1906 earthquake aftermath. Parts of the building were shipped from China for construction.

Location of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral