History & Mission

Building a Dream

With origins in San Francisco dating back to the late 1800s and officially founded in 1971 as a member organization, the United Irish Cultural Center thrives today as a vibrant California 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to celebrating, promoting, and preserving the rich culture and heritage of the collective local, regional, and national culture of Ireland. We foster cultural awareness through education, arts, and social events, and we honor our legacy and rich history by chronicling the valued foundational contributions of dedicated Irish in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As the first Irish social center in the United States built entirely by volunteer labor and community contributions, the United Irish Cultural Center has continued the work of its predecessors (such as the Knights of the Red Branch) in promoting and preserving Irish culture in the City by the Bay.  In the early 1970s, the dream of the Bay Area Irish Community was to have a facility where all of the clubs and organizations representing all of the Counties of Ireland could meet and enjoy their cultural heritage.  The first major step in the fulfillment of this dream took place when a group of determined people met to explore the feasibility of uniting the local Irish groups into a consolidated force. The first question was whether they could raise the necessary funds to build such a facility. This small and committed group forged ahead, and they soon found that many others were willing to join in their effort to achieve the dream.

The enthusiasm of the Irish community to support the project, both financially and with their own labor, provided the foundation to formalize plans for incorporation, and the appointment of a Building Committee in April of 1971.  The name selected for the organization under the articles of incorporation was “The United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco, Inc.”  In February of 1973, the site on 45th Avenue was purchased, and preparation of the building plans were started.

Membership drives and fundraisers continued up until – and after – the groundbreaking ceremonies of November 11, 1973.  On that date, Mayor Joseph Alioto proclaimed “It’s not just a great day for the Irish, it’s a great day for every San Franciscan.”  And he was right.  The UICC opened its doors fifteen months later on March 8, 1975, and it has been the center of Irish culture and activity in the City ever since.

None of this could have been accomplished without the thousands of hours donated by those who built and maintained the Center for all these years.  Those individuals have provided subsequent generations of Irish with a place to gather and celebrate their heritage, and their sacrifices will not be forgotten.

“In 1972, we built the original building with our own hands from the ground up.

It was sweat equity.  Every day and every weekend, the Irish community, in the Sunset and from all over San Francisco, gathered to lay the foundation, frame the building and share the work of making the UICC a reality.

Sean Spiers

Founding member and part of the original building team


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