18 April 1906: Earthquake and Fires Devastated San Francisco with Over 3000 Dead and 28,000 Buildings Destroyed

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Aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Flood Building at Powell in background. Phelan Monument, at Mason Street and Market Street The Chronicle 1906.

On April 18, 1906, an earthquake and subsequent fires devastated San Francisco, California, leaving more than 3,000 people dead and destroying more than 28,000 buildings. The quake ruptured the San Andreas fault to the north and south of the city, for a total of 296 miles, and could be felt from southern Oregon to Los Angeles and inland to central Nevada.

Negatives purchased by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, by editor Jack Wallace on May 31, 1962 The Chronicle 1906

The earthquake occurred at 5:13 a.m. local time, with its epicenter offshore of San Francisco, which then had a population of approximately 400,000 people.

The greatest devastation resulted from the fires that quickly followed the quake.

The initial tremors destroyed the city’s water mains, leaving firefighters with no means of combating the growing blaze, which burned for several days and consumed much of the city. More than 3,000 people perished and more than 28,000 buildings were destroyed in the disaster. Additionally, some 250,000 of San Francisco’s residents were made homeless.

Damages were estimated at around $500 million (in 1906 dollars). The famous writer and San Francisco native Jack London (1876-1916) noted, “Surrender was complete.”

Aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Soup kitchens were set up all ovwer town to feed the hungry and the homeless people. This one, known as Crocker Restaurant was in Union Square Photo ran September 10, 1950 p. 11 Centennial album.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake: Aftermath

Despite the utter devastation, San Francisco quickly recovered from the earthquake, and the destruction actually allowed planners to create a new and improved city. A classic Western boomtown, San Francisco had grown in a haphazard manner since the Gold Rush of 1849. Working from a nearly clean slate, San Franciscans were able to rebuild the city with a more logical and elegant structure. The destruction of the urban center at San Francisco also encouraged the growth of new towns around the San Francisco Bay, making room for a population boom arriving from other parts of the United States and abroad.

Source: History Page

Copy Negative of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, dated 04/23/1955