Stanford medical school started here

Cooper Medical College, at Sacramento and Webster,
became Stanford's medical school in 1908.

In 1881, San Franciscans watched the construction of the imposing red brick and stone building at the corner of Sacramento and Webster Streets, but none knew the purpose of the five-story building going up in one of the most fashionable areas of the city.

That was deliberate. Dr. Levi Cooper Lane, who paid for construction, didn’t want residents to know that the building would house a five-story medical school and clinic. It wasn’t until fall of 1882 that the purpose of the new building was revealed: It would house the newly established Cooper Medical College, which incorporated the staff of the former Medical College of the Pacific.

The college was actually established in 1858 as the medical department of the University of the Pacific by Lane’s uncle, Dr. Elias Cooper. It was the first medical school in the West, located at Mission and Third Streets in San Francisco. Instructors were paid $30, in advance, to teach an 18-week course.

In 1882, none could foresee that Cooper Medical College would be the genesis of one of the world’s leading medical institutions, Stanford University School of Medicine.

Stanford was not founded until 1885 by California Gov. Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Stanford, and did not open until 1891. The university actually adopted Cooper Medical College as its medical school in 1908, making this year its 100th anniversary.

Stanford’s medical school was on Sacramento Street until 1959, when it moved to new quarters on the Palo Alto campus. During the first 50 years, when the school was in the neighborhood, Stanford’s primary focus was clinical.

On its 100th birthday, Stanford University School of Medicine ranks as the oldest continuously operating medical school in the western United States. It continues to be an influential leader in the world of science and medicine.

And it all started at the corner of Sacramento and Webster Streets.