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The effects of the 1906 san francisco giant earthquake

In 1846 the site was largely barren sand dunes fringed with wind-stunted oaks and populated mainly by billions of fleas that tormented man and beast alike. It would be transformed by the discovery of gold in 1848. This intense growth continued throughout the 19th century.

Its clock tower, which was inspired by the Giralda Bell Tower in Seville, Spain, spiked the sky above the waterfront like an exclamation point. Opened in 1875, it boasted 800 well-appointed rooms and rose an impressive seven stories high. It was the interior that awed most visitors, featuring a central grand court surrounded by tier after tier of columned galleries and crowned by a domed ceiling of amber-colored glass.

Equal parts hardheaded businessman, robber baron and dreamer, Ralston knew the area was vulnerable to earthquakes. In 1865 and 1868 the Bay Area had been shaken by temblors, and Ralston was determined to protect his creation from the capricious forces of nature. Ralston also knew that fire was a danger, so he left nothing to chance. Hoses were stored on each floor to allow bellboys to fight any blaze. As a final touch, no less than 12 fire hydrants just outside the hotel on Market and New Montgomery streets were linked to the roof tanks.

The massive forces unleashed during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 ripped gaping fissures in the streets, resulting in broken gas lines and toppled candles and lamps that fueled raging fires. Library of Congress Turn-of-the-century San Francisco was a cosmopolitan city with one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the country. Only a few blocks north of Market Street was Chinatown, a district widely known as the largest Chinese community outside Asia.

The official census of 1900 recorded some 11,000 Chinese living within Chinatown, but the real figure was probably 25,000 or more.

Chinatown was both a thriving, self-sufficient community and a gilded ghetto, a bastion of Chinese culture and an expression of the white racism that forbade Asians to live anywhere else. To most whites, Chinatown was an exotic place of oriental mystery, where one could shop for Chinese trinkets, gawk at real or alleged opium dens, eat at a Chinese restaurant or simply stroll the streets taking in the colorful shops and temples festooned with Chinese characters and bulbous lanterns.

But Chinatown was also an artificial creation, and any Asian who ventured out beyond its borders risked a severe beating — or worse — by ever vigilant white street thugs. Carmen was a great success, and after the performance Caruso returned to his suite at the Palace Hotel a happy man.

Library of Congress At 5: This was a foreshock, an overture to a terrible symphony of destruction. About 10 or 12 seconds after the shaking subsided, the city was rocked by a far more powerful temblor that lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. In 1906 scientists could only speculate on why earthquakes occur, but now, thanks to the study of plate tectonics, we have a better idea of the forces that had been unleashed. The Crossley Building burns during the San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Library of Congress Sometimes the plates lock, allowing no room for further movement. The earth, however, is a dynamic entity, and as the plates continue to shift, incredible strain is produced. An earthquake occurs when the strain finally reaches the breaking point, and the two plates lurch forward, often overlapping, releasing huge amounts of pent-up energy in the process.

Techniques for measuring the intensity of quakes had not been invented by 1906, but modern estimates place the San Francisco earthquake at about 7. Buildings swayed crazily, their facades collapsed, draft horses galloped in blind terror and brick walls tumbled into the street, raising acrid clouds of choking dust. At the Palace Hotel, Caruso literally got a rude awakening. The famed tenor remembered: The chandelier was trying to touch the ceiling, and the chairs were all chasing each other.

It was a terrible scene. Sullivan, who was mortally wounded when a chimney from the California Theater smashed without warning into the fire station where he was living.

The fire department, faced with the greatest crisis in its history, was effectively decapitated. San Francisco Examiner reporter Fred Hewitt had just talked to two policemen when the shaking started.

Residents wander the streets in midst the destruction. Library of Congress To the casual eye, the quake damage seemed arbitrary, the whim of capricious nature. Some buildings were virtually intact, while others were heavily damaged. Much depended on construction techniques, materials used and above all the makeup of the ground underneath. During the Gold Rush, parts of the bay had been filled in to create new real estate. The made ground consisted of loose earth, old timbers, rocks and other debris, and when shaking occurred, this hodgepodge lacked cohesion.

  • Tectonic plates are the huge rocky plates that make up the surface of the earth;
  • The Call Building was also a fire victim;
  • The City Hall and the County Courthouse were destroyed as were all records of the population;
  • Many were successful, though eventually the authorities caught on.

City Hall was particularly hard hit, reduced to a ruin as the Greco-Roman columns that ringed the dome fell away with much of the masonry facade in a matter of seconds. The building site had once been a marsh, the soft ground making any large building erected there vulnerable in a major earthquake.

In order to save money and to pocket government funds, shoddy materials were deliberately used. Old newspapers and trash had been incorporated into the building materials. The densely populated South of Market area was also hit hard. It was largely a working-class district with small businesses, rooming houses and restaurants.

Much of the site had been a marsh in the Gold Rush period. The four-story Valencia Hotel came to symbolize the entire South of Market disaster. Three stories had sunk into the marshy soil before the whole building collapsed on itself.

Only the fourth story, its walls crazily askew, remained above ground. Heroic rescue efforts managed to save about a dozen victims, but nearly 30 perished in the hotel. Many probably drowned, because a nearby water main had flooded the already mushy soil. He had been under a cloud lately, accused of graft and taking bribes, and this disaster was a chance for political salvation. Ruef was a Republican Party organizer who saw greater opportunities for riches by switching to the newly formed Union Labor Party.

Since the entire slate of Union Labor candidates had been elected in 1905, that party now controlled the entire board of supervisors, with predicable results. The earthquake was a heaven-sent opportunity for Schmitz to prove his worth and confound his detractors.

Seeing some looting on the way to the Hall of Justice, the mayor decided to take immediate action. These fires had many causes, including broken chimneys, overturned stoves, crossed electric wires and shattered gas mains.

  • The City Hall and the County Courthouse were destroyed as were all records of the population;
  • The only comparable disaster at the time in America, in terms of the death toll, was the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

But when hard-pressed firemen attached hoses to hydrants, they found to their horror that there was little or no water available. Most hydrants only produced a weak, sporadic trickle before running completely dry. All the conduits that transported water to San Francisco were either near, or actually crossed, the San Andreas fault.

And even if the reservoirs and aqueducts had emerged unscathed, it would not have made much difference. There were more than 300 water main breaks within the city limits. San Franciscans displaced by the 1906 disaster queue up to receive meat rations.

The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Homeless survivors pose in one of the many shanty towns they erected amid the ruins, providing rudimentary shelter. Brigadier General Frederick Funston was on hand when the temblors struck and found himself in command of the Department of California because his superior, General Adolphus Greeley, happened to be away in Washington, D.

Funston, who stood 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed a mere 120 pounds, was a pint-sized and pugnacious officer who was determined to save the city by any means possible.

While Funston issued a flurry of orders to Army units, the Navy galvanized its own forces. Navy Lieutenant Frederick Newton Freeman, in temporary command of Preble, sailed the destroyer and two tugboats, Active and Leslie, to the stricken city.

The tugs pumped seawater from the bay, which was fed into hoses to fight the fires along the waterfront.

5:12 AM - April 18, 1906

Because of Freeman and his men, a number of Gold Rush-era buildings, some of the oldest in San Francisco, survive to this day. The troops fanned out into the city, guarding vulnerable buildings, restoring order and preventing looting. In many cases, however, the soldiers did more harm than good by forcing thousands to evacuate their homes, ostensibly in the name of saving lives. But many of these people were able-bodied and more than willing to take an active part in saving their homes and businesses.

The story of Dr.

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Plincz is a prime case in point. He was a young surgeon who lived in an octagonal house at 1027 Green St. Working with determination, they wet blankets, rugs and carpets with water that had been painstakingly collected and used them to smother small fires and extinguish sparks before they could spring to malevolent life.

A soldier appeared and ordered Dr. Plincz to evacuate immediately. Orders were orders, and it seemed foolhardy to argue with an armed soldier. One wrong word and you might find yourself facing the business end of a bayonet-tipped Springfield rifle. But Plincz decided to take a different tack. He was friendly, talkative and plied the soldier with several glasses of good wine. The doughboy relented and allowed the Green Street defenders to stay. Five houses — including Dr.

Since the fire department had few means to combat the blazes, it was agreed that firebreaks would have to be created, by ruthlessly dynamiting buildings that were in the path of the growing conflagration. In the end, Schmitz allowed himself to be persuaded, but orders were given to wait until the last possible moment before a building was blown. Unfortunately both civilian firefighters and soldiers had little or no experience with explosives, and their clumsy efforts actually spread the fire.

Funston made an effort to consult with Schmitz, but at times he acted in a high-handed, arbitrary manner, virtually ignoring civilian authority. Martial law had not been declared, but the general issued orders as if he were on a campaign.

When dynamite stocks ran low, Funston became obsessed with finding more. The general ordered that all such vessels be pulled out of the firefighting line and sent for more dynamite. Briggs, and then sent it to Point Pinole to get more explosives. The fabled Palace Hotel, iconic symbol of the Bay City, survived the earthquake only to succumb to the fire. Guests like Caruso were shaken, windows were broken and some interiors were wrecked, but the building seemed to have remained structurally sound.

The Call Building was also a fire victim.