Rehabilitation of historic Japantown community center and school gets $5 million boost


California Construction News staff writer

A $5 million grant been awarded for the rehabilitation of Kinmon Gakuen’s school and auditorium in San Francisco. The educational institution, also known as the Golden Gate Institute, is one of the oldest cultural organizations in the city’s Japantown and has been offering elementary through high school-level courses for children of Japanese ancestry since 1911.

“For over a century, Kinmon Gakuen has been an important education institute supporting children of Japanese descent and their families especially at times when our Japanese community was harshly discriminated against,” said Mayor London Breed. “As someone who grew up just a few blocks away from the Japantown community, I deeply understand that our community is still healing from the painful xenophobia they endured.

“Through investing in this iconic institute, we are working to preserve, embrace, and celebrate the cultural heritage and accomplishments of the oldest Japantown in America and our Japanese American community to our City and nation.”

The upcoming renovations of Kinmon Gakuen will be supported by a $5 million grant through the API Nonprofit Acquisition Fund – in addition to an earlier announced $4.5 million in funding from the State of California for the organization.

Kinmon Gakuen was created in the wake of an 1895 school exclusion law passed by the San Francisco Board of Education which made it difficult for children of Japanese ancestry to attend public schools. Through fundraising and donations, Kinmon Gakuen officially opened in 1911, and at its height boasted more than 600 enrolled students. The site also served as the gathering place for one of the main contingents of evacuees to the Tanforan Assembly Center until the school’s reopening in 1949.

The funding announcement kicks off the planning and envisioning of Kinmon Gakuen’s rehabilitation and renewal. After renovations are complete, the Kinmon Community Center project will restore community-wide use of the historic building. The rehabilitated building will host classes six days a week and serve as a home for nonprofit offices, social and legal services, community meetings, and cultural activities, including art, exhibit, event, and performance spaces.

“We are extremely honored to be the recipient of the much-needed financial support from the City and County of San Francisco to rehabilitate our building to be fully utilized for community use and enjoyment,” said Kinmon Gakuen Board President Shinichi Seino. “Kinmon Gakuen is the oldest building that remains of our pre-World War II history in this community, and we will now be able to remain a vibrant venue for generations to come.”.


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