A look back at the 1906 quake

April 18 marks the anniversary of the historic quake that redefined San Francisco. The powerful minute-long shift of the earth woke up the sleepy city at 5:13 A.M. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. Almost immediately after the main shock, fires broke out all over the city as chimneys collapsed, electrical wires fell, gas lines ruptured, and stoves overturned. For three days the fires burned the once-bustling city, with most of the damage decimating the 4 square-mile North-Eastern tip of the peninsula entirely. Escaping the fires was the greatest challenge to San Franciscans, and at a time with no escape routes other than by boat. It has been heard that in the post-quake exodus of the city, voyeurs on the east bay shores had witnessed masses of San Franciscans jumping into the bay water to escape the fires.

Aerial photo taken by George R. Lawrence after the Great 1906 Quake.

San Francisco did not waiver from the blow, but rather emerged as the phoenix from the flames with the city we know and love today.  The foremost factor in the fast rebound was the United Railroads. The train ways were up and running within three days after the earthquake, transporting workers and materials. While rebuilding the city, architects favored a Beaux-Arts style, a classic but eclectic European design with Spanish, Moorish, Greek, Roman, and Italian Renaissance influences, which reflected San Francisco’s status as the international hub of the west coast. One architect greatly influenced by Beaux-Arts at the time was Timothy Pfleuger, to whom we owe the honor of the design of our great venue! Within a decade post-quake the pulse of San Francisco was vivacious and stronger than ever.  It’s an energy that every San Franciscan feels in their heart, even in a world over a century later.

North Beach in 1927. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.