Levi’s site to become school

1906 factory closed in 2002, to open in fall 2008 as lone Quaker elementary in S.F.

The century-old former Levi Strauss & Co. factory is slated to open as The City’s only Quaker school in the fall of 2008.

The bright yellow 1906 wood-frame structure on Valencia Street was built in the wake of the earthquake and fire. For nearly a century, the famous jean maker made denim products in the building until it closed its doors four years ago. The interior consists largely of open spaces once filled with rows of seamstresses. It was the oldest operating Levi Strauss factory and the company’s last operating factory in the U.S., said Melisa Gaudreau, an architect charged with recounting the building’s historical importance. At its height, a team of seamstresses made more than 1,500 pairs of “501” jeans a day there.

The vacant former factory that closed its doors in 2002 will become the headquarters for the private school that carries an annual tuition price tag of $19,390 and teaches Quaker values such as simplicity, service to others and nonviolence.

Although the old factory is not a registered city landmark, the new owners say its exterior will change little. The school aims to retain its historical significance, said Joel Roos, who is representing the school in contractor negotiations.

The longtime factory embodies some of the most important lessons of California history, said Catherine Hunter, the head of the school. Not only did the materials made in the factory cloth the immigrants who helped build California, a piece of Depression-era history can be learned there, Hunter said.

During the Depression, instead of closing the factory, Levi Strauss & Co. kept its workers employed by having them install a new wooden floor, Hunter said.

“They kept the people employed and they laid the beautiful maple floors that are still there,” Hunter said.

The school, which enrolls about 200 kids in grades K-4, aims to add grades 5-8 and nearly double its enrollment once it moves into the old factory in the fall of 2008, Hunter said. Last year, the Sarah and William Hambrecht Foundation bought the historic building and transferred ownership to the school.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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