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The School in Full Swing and the First Graduation

The Sisters of Mercy administration and novitiate moved down the hill to the newly completed Motherhouse and Novitiate building on May 11, 1932, leaving the Kohl Mansion and newly constructed four-classroom wing for the new Mercy High school. Thirty-four years later another new wing was built, and in 1959 an Olympic-sized pool and the athletic building was completed when Principal Sister Mary Martin Casey received an anonymous donation.
Diplomas were presented to Mercy High School’s first graduating class of 19 students at an evening ceremony in the Motherhouse Chapel on May 31, 1934, at 8:30 p.m. Our Lady of Angels Pastor Father Thomas Dowling, OFM Cap., officiated.

On June 27, 1934, a notification from the University of California stated that the Academic Senate Committee on Schools had placed Mercy High School on the list of accredited schools beginning with the academic year of 1933-34. There was much rejoicing among the sisters.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson

Classrooms in the Mansion

In the years following its 1931 opening, the high school took full advantage of the mansion. The bedrooms at the front of the mansion on the second floor became rooms for art and pottery classes. The Kohl’s bedroom became a language classroom and the rooms across the hall were the science laboratory. The dining room was set up as a light filled library. Many plays were given in the Great Hall, using the stage that had been erected at the end opposite the front door.

Freddie’s billiard room became the bride’s room and then later a board room.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson

Kohl Mansion Formally Enters History

L-R Sept 1987 Mercy High Board President Millie Rimmer; unidentified man; Mrs. Gloria Barton, Burlingame City Councilwoman, Mercy High Principal Sister Amy Bayley; Karen Key, Executive Director of Burlingame Chamber of Commerce; Frank Hunt, Burlingame Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; and Carol Tanzi, Burlingame Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

In 1982 Kohl Mansion was entered into the National Register of Historic Places which lists historically significant sites throughout the United States. The mansion has also been recognized by The California Historical Society. The Mercy Challenge began under the leadership of Sister Jeanmarie Montgomery, and the Mansion was opened to the public for weddings, anniversaries and other gatherings with Pat Nelson as the first social coordinator. The next year, Morning Glory Montessori Preschool, under the direction of June Wisecarver, opened on the Mercy campus.

The school moved the library to Russell Hall when it was remodeled in 1986 to accommodate the new Catholic Healthcare West, a hospital system begun by the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn and Burlingame.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson

Music at Kohl Mansion Begins

Under the leadership of Mercy High Principal Sister Amy Bayley and Elizabeth Dossa, Music at Kohl Mansion was established to attract the public to the mansion and to make use of the beautiful Great Hall for chamber music. On February 23, 1984, Khadra International Folk Ballet performed, the first event on the new Music at Kohl Mansion concert series that included the Stanford String Quartet, David Ramadanoff’s Northern California Chamber Orchestra, and San Francisco Opera Center Singers. Pianist Karen Hutchinson had played a special concert for charter board members on February 3.

The first Christmas at Kohl Mansion, a fundraiser for MAKM took place on December 1, 1985. An auxiliary formed to support Music at Kohl Mansion and over the next 10 years the auxiliary presented two more Christmases at Kohl, open houses in the fall, special membership concerts, three New Year’s Eve parties, fashion shows, and two murder mysteries.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson

The Foundations Were Shaken

October 17, 1989—The Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the mansion, the high school and Music at Kohl Mansion, as well as the lives of the brides scheduled to be married at Kohl Mansion for the next two years. The school continued during the reconstruction, as did the music series. The ceiling of the Great hall was netted to catch any falling plaster. Pianist Robin Sutherland walked into the hall for a concert January 14, 1990. He looked up to the ceiling and commented, “I don’t usually work with a net.” The audience loved it. The quake caused $3.2 million damage to the Mercy campus. Sister Amy Bayley inaugurated the Rebuilds Campaign to repair the mansion.

The changes are recounted in Notable Excitement: 30 Years of Music at Kohl Mansion by Liz Dossa:
“One by one, elements of the original 1914 building were restored and later architectural mistakes, however well meaning and practical, erased. The awkwardly high stage, built for school plays in 1957, was removed from one end of the Hall, and in its place were a new archway and pocket sliding doors carefully matched to the wood in the rest of the Hall. The change allowed an unobstructed sightline from the entrance of the building to the back. Guests and audience members now could move directly from the Hall into the “Black and White” Morning Room and the Dining Room. The restoration removed the ugly beige linoleum the school had laid down in the Great Hall, revealing the original oak flooring. Black spotlights mounted on the wall like huge metal spiders were taken down. New ceiling lighting illuminated the musicians and their music. The end result was a building better adapted to presenting concerts and […]

Music touches the community

Music at Kohl Mansion launched its Music in the Schools program with the Fidelio String Quartet on January 19, 1993. The program at first reached upper elementary and high school students. The Alexander String Quartet became a key member of the Music in the Schools program the next year. The Del Sol Quartet performed in the elementary and junior high schools for 10 years, followed by Quartet San Francisco, augmented by a number of ensembles. Bringing music to children and teens has been an essential part of Music at Kohl Mansion since 1993 and was led by Anneke Gaenslen who volunteered her time to coordinate ensembles and schools for over 20 years.
Concerts for families and children in the Great Hall were an essential part of Music at Kohl Mansion.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson

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    Growth followed by a Recession Affects the Music and the Mansion

Growth followed by a Recession Affects the Music and the Mansion

MAKM grew steadily from 1994 to 2002 adding foundation funding and selling out the expanded series under the leadership of Executive Director Carol Eggers. Seating was added in areas outside the Great Hall for the overflow. Many funders supported the music series. Events at the mansion increased in number as social coordinator Linda Hylen reached out to fill the mansions’ calendar.
2009-2011—The global recession hit funders hard causing a MAKM budget crisis. The dedicated Board of Directors poured great effort into fundraising and contributed their own funds. The series survived as Executive Director Patricia Kristof Moy took it through this difficult period. The series emerged with more collaboration in the community with organizations such as the Peninsula Jewish Community Center and the San Mateo City Library where outreach concerts were held. The Young Chamber Musicians coached by Susan Bates and Eric Gaenslen began to play before Music at Kohl concerts and for master classes there.

Written by: Liz Dossa, Sister Marilyn Gouailhardou, RSM and Catherine Wilkinson