The Public Institute

In 1847, prior to the gold discovery, San Franciscans had erected a one-room schoolhouse on Portsmouth Square, at Clay Street, to educate the town's few children. When news of the gold strike on the American River hit town, the pupils took off for the gold fields, their teacher not far behind. As the town exploded into cityhood with the arrival of the 49ers, the little schoolhouse was pressed into service as a multi-purpose public building. In mid-1849 it served as a justice court and police office. In October, the council acquired the sailing vessel Euphemia, which was outfitted as a jail and moored out from Central Wharf at Battery.