San Diego High School History

San Diego High has a rich history, dating back to 1882 when it opened its doors as Russ School.

1882: The Russ School

Russ School

This eight-room, two story building was built with lumber donated by the Hon. Joseph Russ. In 1888, a gymnasium was built, but was soon after moved to University Heights to become a grammar school. In 1893, the Russ School became entirely a Senior High School, with a new building added in 1898. In 1905, it was decided to build a new High School. The Russ School was moved to make room for the new building. In 1911, the Russ School caught fire and burned to the ground.

1907: The Grey Castle

The Grey Castle

The 100 Building, known as the Grey Castle, opened April 13, 1907, and served the city for over 60 years. In 1912, the home economics, fine arts and technical buildings were started, as were plans for Balboa Stadium.

1914: Building Balboa Stadium

Building Balboa Stadium

Balboa Stadium was constructed during 1914, using Steam Shovel and mules as shown in this photo. The Stadium opened on May 31, 1915 during the Panama-California Exposition, with a capacity of 23,000, it was the largest municipal stadium in the nation at the time. In 1960, a second deck was added expanding the capacity to 40,000, making Balboa Stadium the largest High School Stadium in the nation. During it's existence, Balboa Stadium has been the home field of the Chargers, and a site of the Beatles concert in San Diego. It become the home of the San Diego Chargers for six seasons, from 1961 to 1966.

1926: San Diego High School

San Diego High School

In 1922 and 1923 the boy's and girl's gymnasium was erected. The Russ Auditorium was erected in 1926, seating 2500, it became the center for civic activities in San Diego. In 1928, the Main Gymnasium was built, seating 750.

However, during the mid-1970s, several of San Diego High's buildings were deemed as not earthquake safe,leading to the demolition of "The Old Grey Castle". This historic video catches the spirit of that time:

The loss of the original buildings changed the face of the campus but not its job in educating students. In 1982, the school celebrated its centennial anniversary of 100 years of educating students. 

1976: The New San Diego High School


In the late 1960's, legislation was passed that all school buildings constructed prior to 1933 had to be demolished due to new earthquake standards. San Diego High School buildings had to be replaced by June 30, 1975. The demolition of the cafeteria and Russ Auditorium began in late 1973, with construction of the four main buildings beginning in September 1974. When the four main buildings were completed, the remaining old buildings were demolished, and the final phase of construction was started in February 1977. The 700 building constructed in 1938, the 600 building constructed in 1940, and the 500 building constructed in 1950 remained, and are still in use on the campus. Balboa stadium, being constructed prior to 1933 was also demolished, and was rebuilt in 1978 with 3,500 seats.


1982: SDHS Centennial

SDHS Centennial

100 years after the opening of the Russ School, San Diego High School is still educating students, and a center of the community.

1995: The New 800 Building

800 Building 1995

With over 1700 students in grades 10 - 12 throughout the mid 90's, San Diego High was still growing. Construction on the new 800 building began in September 1994, and was completed for the opening of school in September 1995. The new 800 building is linked to the 500 building via a second story walk way, making the rooms in the upper 500 and 600 buildings wheelchair accessible. A new entrance to the school was constructed from Russ Boulevard leading to the plaza near the fountain. Room 554 was renovated over the summer of 1995 to give San Diego High School a new chemistry room, with plenty of lab space.

2002: New Construction Begins

To make room for a full 9th grade, and an anticipated 3,000 students, construction of two new buildings began in early 2002.

2003: 900 and 1000 Buildings Open

900 Building 2004

The 900 building has 31 general classrooms and was the main location of classes for the new 9th grade class at SDHS.

1000 Building 2004

The 1000 building has 8 science labs, configured for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Environmental Science.

2004: Small Schools are Launched

Small Schools are Launched

In June 2004, San Diego High School closed for one day, and reopened the next day as the San Diego High Educational Complex. The Complex was comprised of six autonomous small schools, each with it's own administration, staff and approximately 500 students. CIMA, with a communication focus; LEADS, with a leadership focus; The School of Business; The School of the Arts; The School of Science and Technology; and The School of International Studies.

School Banners 2004


On January 7, 2019, our new principal Francisca Del Carmen-Aguilar reported to San Diego High School. Franny, returning after graduating from San Diego High School and working here as a teacher.

For the 2022/2023 the school was reunited as one High School, the San Diego High School.

For 2023, US News has ranked our school as the #3 High School in the San Diego Unified School District. 


Front of School

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.