Opening at this site in 1898 as "St. Philip's Saturday evening sewing class for black girls", this college was found by the Rt. Rev. James Steptoe Johnston (1843-1924), Episcopal Bishop of western Texas, who considered education a tool toward solving race problems. Soon coeducational and in a brick building of its own, it was renamed St. Philip's Industrial School, and was taught by Mrs. Alice G. Cowan, a white missionary with prior service in Mexico. In 1902, Miss Artemisia Bowden (1879-1969), a black lady from Georgia, assumed administrative and teaching duties, serving for 52 ensuing years. Broadened by literary courses in 1903 and with teacher training added, the facility in 1906 became the St. Philip's Normal, Grammar, and Industrial School.
A new, expandable site was bought in 1917, and St. Philip's moved to Dakota Street, 2 miles east of this site. Elevated to a junior college in 1927, and in public control since 1942, it is now a part of the San Antonio Union Junior College District. In 1955, it became racially integrated. The enrollment has risen from 21 in 1899 to more than 8,000 today.