Reflecting on Nearly Fifty Years in the Community: A Retrospective and Future Outlook

Examining the construction timeline of the current Irish Center, as narrated in the Center’s monthly bulletin from the early 1970s, it’s notable that fifty years ago this month marked the commencement of the building emerging from the sand dunes at the intersection of 45th Avenue and Wawona. Progress was swift, with work proceeding at a frenetic pace. The groundbreaking ceremony had occurred just a few months prior, on Sunday, November 11, 1973. Foundations were established by early December, and by the close of the year, the side walls were already in the process of being erected.

Fundraising Efforts –— In February 1973, the building committee announced the availability of the site on 45th Ave for purchase at a cost of $100,000. The early contributions from membership sign-up fees and initial fundraising initiatives successfully raised enough funds to acquire the land and initiate the planning phase. Simultaneously, during the initial stages of construction, Tom Hayes, the Chairman of the Fundraising committee and Vice President, played a crucial role in orchestrating ticket sales to secure essential finances for the building’s construction.

The estimated construction costs were projected to be $300,000. To supplement funds, members of the local community extended loans to the Center, with an 8% annual interest rate paid back to the respective members. This collaborative effort reflected the community’s dedication and financial support in bringing the vision of the Irish Center to fruition.

Framing Prediction — In May of 1973, while the plans for the building were progressing through the approval process at city hall, Tim Brosnan was summoned by President Liam Spiers during a membership meeting one evening. The question posed was about the timeframe needed to frame the wooden structure. Tim responded confidently, stating that it would “take 20 carpenters 15 weeks to frame the building.” This moment underscored the determination of the group, highlighting their resolve to persist until the construction of the building was successfully accomplished.

Membership Roll Challenges — Despite the building committee’s persistent efforts to achieve a target of 1000 signed-up members before commencing construction, the project proceeded with nearly 800 individuals on the membership roll. The hope was that additional people would join before the Center’s anticipated opening in 1975.

Come on Down! — Once the foundation was successfully in place, a call for labor assistance at the construction site was disseminated through the monthly newsletter. Pat Brosnan, the individual overseeing daily operations, was in need of additional hands, and the bulletin emphasized that there was a role for everyone at 45th Avenue and Wawona. The message conveyed that one didn’t need to be a carpenter to contribute, and the call for volunteers was inclusive, encouraging individuals with varying amounts of time, whether it be a few hours on a Friday or Saturday, or even a spare day off during the week, to come forward and join the efforts at the Center.

Golden Anniversary 2025 — With slightly more than twelve months remaining until the golden anniversary of the inauguration of the United Irish Cultural Center on March 8th, 2025, we stand at the threshold of a new chapter with the 2025 Project rebuild. Spearheaded by community leaders, including Supervisors Joel Engardio and Myrna Melgar, and wholeheartedly endorsed by Mayor London Breed, Governor Gavin Newsom, and several former San Francisco mayors, this ambitious project serves as a testament to the collective determination and shared heritage that defines our community.

Vision and Support — The envisioned 120,000 square-foot facility transcends mere architectural achievement; it stands as a vibrant amalgamation of culture, innovation, and community spirit, poised to address the diverse needs and aspirations of the Bay Area community. With a budget of $75 million, the project mirrors meticulous financial planning and enjoys widespread support. The decision to commence construction, backed by 75% of the required funds, underscores our shared commitment and responsible stewardship.

Community and Collaboration — At the heart of this initiative lies the unwavering dedication of numerous volunteers and the priceless pro bono contributions that have been instrumental in shaping the project over the past 2 1/2 years. Our robust committee structure, comprising the board, steering, building, and rising leaders, guarantees a comprehensive and inclusive approach to our endeavors.

Cultural and Technological Nexus — The new center will go beyond celebrating Irish heritage through lively cultural events such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade; it also actively cultivates forward-thinking opportunities in areas like artificial intelligence and technology innovation, embodying the dynamic spirit of Silicon Valley.

Inclusive Amenities — From a top-floor restaurant and wellness facilities to dedicated spaces for education and community support, the center is meticulously designed to serve as a vibrant hub of activity, learning, and unity.

Commitment to Excellence — Our collaboration with esteemed architects and designers, notably the visionary Studio BANAA, underscores our unwavering commitment to crafting a space that is not only iconic but also enduring in its significance.

Building for the Future — In solidarity with individuals who served on the Board of Directors in 1974 and under the supportive gaze of our political and community leaders, we are not merely engaged in rebuilding; rather, we are actively reinventing and reinvigorating the very essence of our community. The Irish Cultural Center is poised to become a landmark of heritage, a beacon of innovation, and a welcoming home for all, echoing the diverse and dynamic spirit of San Francisco for generations to come.

Leo T. Walsh Scholarship — Applications for our annual scholarship program are now open for 8th Graders and High School Seniors entering the next level of their education. Completed applications are due on March 17th.

Summer Camp Registration — Registration is now open for the Annual Summer Camp taking place between June 10 and June 28 at the Center. Sign up by March 17th for the Early Bird Pricing.

Benefit Concert a Success — Congratulations to UICC member Cormac Gannon for orchestrating a fantastic evening of Irish music on January 13th in support of the humanitarian charity MECA, dedicated to the Children of Gaza. Well done on contributing to such a meaningful cause!

Don’t Miss Musical Events — I hope to see many of you at our special live music events this month including, The Hooks, Aoife Scott, and Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones!

Congratulations — Tom Hunt, from Co. Roscommon is this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal. Michael Murphy (RIP) is the Honorary Grand Marshal. The annual dinner takes place at the Center on Friday February 23rd at 7.00pm

Liam Reidy, President