The “Quake” 100 Years On

On April 18th 2006, this will mark the 100 year anniversary of the 7.9 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco in 1906. At that time San Francisco was known as the most sophisticated city on the West Coast, the fact that most of the buildings were constructed of unreinforced wood and brick only added fuel to the chaos the ensued.

The tremor which lasted between 45 seconds to 60 seconds ruptured fuel tanks and and water main lines causing major fires to break out in the city with little or no water for the firefighters to quell the raging inferno.

After the earthquake, San Francisco April 1906.

Earthquake and fire.

The fires unchecked, torched 3600 acres of the city only to slow down as the fuel ran out and eventually to be extinguished by a spring time storm.

The estimated damage ran into $400 million, with a casualty list of 3000 dead, 225000 homeless and 28000 buildings destroyed. The rupture to the earth ran a total length of 290 miles, in comparison the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake left a rupture of only 25 miles!

Collapsed buildings

Earthquake damage

New to this period of time was the ever popular camera and being inexpensive at that time this natural disaster provided the material for amatuers and professionals alike to capture images of the aftermath making it the first major disaster to be extensively covered by photographers.

Today there are very few original buildings standing and those that are still carry a reminder of the past such as the Fairmont San Francisco looking as it did in 1907. The Palace Hotel which was hosting a famous opera singer and had to be completely renovated, reopening in 1909 and the Westin St. Francis Hotel who had a young John Barrymore in residence on that famed day in April 1906.

Fairmont Hotel

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