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Architectural discovery just off U.S. 101 in Marin.

The grand architecture of St. Vincent's School for Boys, in Marin County, was originally meant to inspire high ideals in orphaned children. Today, visitors, too, can appreciate its ornately spired, eucalyptus-surrounded buildings, just off U.S. 101 north of San Rafael.

The richly embellished Spanish colonial revival style pervades the school's main buildings: spires and archways abound. Most impressive is the soaring Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, built in 1930 by Leo Mitchell. Inside, stained-glass windows spray colored light across the pews. The small, formal gardens and tiered fountain between the chapel and administration building create a serene setting.

A touch of history on 45-minute tour Weekdays, volunteers take you through the grounds, recounting the school's history from its origin as an orphanage to its role today a center for troubled boys.

In 1853, 317 acres were deeded to the Roman Catholic archbishop of California for use as "a seminary of learning" for orphans. Two years later, three nuns from San Francisco set out to do just that, reaching the site in a rowboat manned by four Miwok Indians. Pioneer priests followed. To date, some 40,000 boys have passed through the school's halls.

Tours can be arranged 9 to 5 weekdays; call (415) 479-8831. You're welcome to visit the grounds at other times, though buildings may be locked. A free brochure recaps the history; pick it up in the administration office, or write to Box M, Civic Center Branch, San Rafael 94913.

To get there from San Francisco, head north on U.S. 101. Take the Marinwood/ St. Vincent Drive exit and follow the eucalyptus-lined lane 1/2 mile east.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1988
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