1906History

Shocking swath of destruction

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1906 Earthquake and Fire
The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed most of the current-day Financial District, SOMA, Tenderloin and Civic Center. (Library of Congress)

Only the most fortunate and robust of San Francisco structures survived the fire and earthquake of 1906. By the time the rubble stopped smoldering, nearly all of The City east of Van Ness Avenue was completely destroyed.

The above panoramic image shot from Nob Hill shows the few current landmarks identifiable amid the wreckage.

A disaster in film

Moving pictures were just over 10 years old when the 1906 earthquake and fire struck. Motion picture upstarts including the Edison Company and American Mutograph and Biograph Company used the new-fangled technology to document the widespread damage and destruction.

This three-part series showed a destroyed City literally trying to pick up the pieces in the weeks following the disaster.

Tents and burned-out building shells were all that remained near City Hall. But: The cable cars were running!

Refugees camped out at Jefferson Square Park tent-to-tent as cameras captured a typically windy San Francisco day.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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