Great Quake Day


Centennial -- April 18, 2006

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San Francisco was shattered at 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, and half the city burned down over the next several days. 100 years later, the Corinthian League held a full day of events and parties. A long, fun day: Up at 3:30am, downtown at Lotta's Fountain at 4:40 am, speeches, survivors, horse-drawn fire apparatus, etc. Home at 11:00 pm.
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The city 100 years ago. Every tall structure you see was burned out and most of them were subsequently demolished.
Here are 10,000 folks; one hundred years later at 5:00 am on April 18, 2006.
The city still owns two cars purchased by a spendthrift mayor in the early 1930's and keeps then in running order. Neat town!
A half dozen horse-drawn steam fire pumpers were on hand and pranced through a police corridor on Market Street. Luckily we were way back in the crowd and near the open path that we thought was for ambulances. Several had three horses cantering abreast.
Here's part of the gang. There were about 60 of us in total. I belong to several groups that like to dress up and have a good time!
Some more of us. I'm the cable car conductor at the far right.
This photo of three Corinthians was published in the SF Chronicle. These are genuine clothes -- really old!
The conductor -- hard to button the outfit these days. Marketta is wearing the top half of a tailor-made "day formal" suit from the era that I bought from a Salvation Army store in Boston 35+ years ago for $20. Complete outfit with suspenders, shirt and striped pants that she didn't wear because she said thought they were too itchy. With time, she'll learn that style trumps comfort. Several complimented her on the piping.  
Marketta told the French Consul General about this event. She's from Finland but went to college in France.
Surviving the quake is the Monadnock Building now restored with a frescoed foyer depicting famous Californians.
Here's the firehouse brass saluting for a full minute. About a dozen earthquake survivors attended the event.
Here's our Mayor, Gavin Newsom, hanging a commemorative wreath on Lotta's Fountain. Lotta Crabtree b. 1846 was dancing at age 8 and lavished with gold dust by audiences. She went on to National stardom and built this fountain in 1875 to thank the city that gave her start.
In 1906, the city burned to the ground because most all of the water mains were ruptured. The Fire Chief, Dennis Sullivan, was one of the first casualties. One fire hydrant still worked, now known as the Golden Fire Hydrant. It is in Delores Heights and saved that part of town (a cistern was one block up the hill). On each anniversary, the SF fire department repaints it Gold. Here is San Francisco's 2006 Fire Chief, Joanne Hayes-White.
So, I'm no chief, but I took a can of spray paint and hopped in.
Several friends own antique uniforms. Here Spanish-American War veterans, Wally and Tony, pose with Marketta.
Towns from all over the Bay Area sent fire apparatus to the Golden Hydrant celebration. Unfortunately, none here were horse-drawn. Animal rights and all that -- a hundred years ago the horses dragged equipment up this hill above Mission Delores.
Here's some of our group at the Golden Hydrant. Interesting mob!
The SF Chronicle printed a special edition on April 18th.
Several of us then rode on a fire truck to the Cliff House. A long, but fast, haul. Everyone was hanging on to their hats.
After brunch at the Cliff House, we stopped by a couple of earthquake survivors in Golden Gate Park. Wells were drilled along the San Francisco's coast as early as 1873 -- there was fresh water which could be tapped very near the ocean. A proposal was made to build a windmill right on the dunes and to use the prevailing westerly winds to pump water from beneath the dunes and into the park. Construction of the Dutch Windmill was completed by June 30th, 1902, at a cost of $16,000. The Dutch Windmill was immensely successful. So successful, in fact, that by 1905 preparation for a second, larger mill was underway. This second mill became know as the 'Murphy Windmill', after Samuel G. Murphy, a wealthy banker who donated $20,000 towards its construction.
And the Dutch tulips were in bloom (way opened up owing to heavy rain). Earthquake Day was the first sunny day in three months!
Here's the Conservatory of Flowers, a glass building that opened in 1879 and has been updated to have various rooms duplicate any sort of environment -- From tropical Amazon to Artic tundra. This group could have been there in 1906.
Here's what you felt like when the earthquake hit! I tried to get Marketta to dress up like these 1906 comedians, but she wouldn't wear the hat or pants. In the weeks after the quake and fire, Kolb and Dill, the city's leading comedy team, performed in a tent show at Eighth and Market.
Then back to the Palace Hotel and took a walk. Here's Lotta's Fountain at 1:00 pm minus 9,980 people,
After the earthquake, the Army Corps of Engineers built temporary housing in the city's parks.
Circa 1908, they were sold for $35 each to be moved elsewhere -- and still turn up in the city today! 25 are left.
New roof and paint. Four more were found just a few years ago as part of larger, added-to structures. Here's one of them.
Then at 3:00 pm the "Great Quake Day Centennial Musicale" was hosted at one of my favorite SF homes. A Victorian house built in 1886 that was purchased by a friend from a different club (Automatic Musical Instruments) in 1965. He has been restoring it ever since. Being a prescient guy, he bought this entire bedroom set in 1960 for $125 at Butterfield's Auction House. Fancy dressers (not seen) and all.
Below is the detailing of the column capitals in the living room.
Below is the dining room looking Northeast. I bet this guy is glad he was captured taking a swig.
Below is the dining room looking Northwest.
Below is the living room looking Southeast. Note the columns -- one part of the wall and one free standing.
Below is the living room looking Southwest. And matching columns -- Victorian elegance!
Here is RR's living room sans the Corinthian gang. There is a reproducing grand piano at each end -- the photographer must have been standing next to the piano at the North end.

After a half hour of musical entertainment upstairs (singers, vaudeville, piano), we went to my favorite place -- the basement. Here is an "American Photoplayer" from the teens that was originally sold to accompany silent movies. There are two side chests holding drums, pipes and sound effects that can be actuated by the pull cords or foot petals on the piano. The musician had to be coordinated, but not that musical, as the piano played from paper rolls -- two rolls at once so he/she could move a lever and instantly switch from comedy to drama and vice versa.
Long before jukeboxes, saloons (later speakeasies) had coin operated pianos for entertainment. Here is a beautiful Seeburg G nickelodeon with piano, traps and pipes. Sounds like a four-piece band. The music is all pneumatic, vacuum valves, bellows, etc.. The flashlight and wooden stick are for turning it off if the electrical coin trip hangs up. This was made long before OSHA and the coin trip is live 120 volts so you don't want to stick your finger inside!
Below is MH in front of a beautiful Seeburg KT Special nickelodeon with a Mills Virtuoso automatic violin at the right.
Below is the Corinthian League finding seating in the basement.
First a ragtime overture.
Frederick Hodges was the accompanist for the twelve acts to follow.
Our hostess and the founder/leader of the Corinthian League.
A staid fundraiser? No, a singer and performer.
A Vaudeville skit.
The Barbary Coast!
A prize-winning whistler -- complete arias. HG is a fun guy with many interests.
San Francisco opera singer -- very attractive, but I couldn't get the flash out of her eyes. Send me a better photo.
Another wonderful performer. See http://www.42ndstmoon.org/
Great vaudeville and ragtime routines.
Another diva. Send me your better photos and also those of the many performers I missed.
Then and Now photos. Below is looking North on Powell Street in 1906 and 2006. The St, Francis Hotel is on the left -- note that it had burned out, but the structure and stonework survived. Presidents and dignitaries now stay there. In 1906, they stayed at the Palace Hotel (actually Presidents thru Eisenhower, it was Kennedy that switched to the St. Francis). The night before the earthquake, Enrico Caruso gave a performance in SF and stayed at the Palace. After his rude 5:12 am wakeup, he vowed never to return to San Francisco -- and he never did. The fire didn't reach the Palace Hotel until after another day. Caruso had left town.
Here are the camera positions of a clever man that did panoramic views in 1906 from a camera lifted by kites. Orange represents the burned areas. Untrained military used black powder and dynamite to blow up structures for a firebreak. About all they accomplished was to make great kindling that encouraged the fire,
Here's the camera that swiveled to give the panoramic views
And the kites that lifted the camera.
More camera positioning notes. What you see here is the saying "Everything East of Van Ness is a mess."
Here's view C or D (2 or 3 in the colored map above).
Here's view E (4 in the colored map above). The Ferry Building has been wonderfully restored (twice).
Below you can see that most of downtown and half of the residential areas went up in smoke.

Any comments? Click Jerry Wagner
San Francisco