Moments in History, Uncategorized

May 28, 1906 – San Francisco in Ruins


San Francisco in Ruins (Clicken to enbiggenate)


This amazingly detailed, panoramic high resolution photograph shows just how completely devastated 4 days and 4 nights of fires left San Francisco after the Great 1906 Earthquake.

6 weeks later smoke still hangs in the air as people begin the long, mammoth task of cleaning up.

More than just a historical snapshot of one of the most famous natural disasters, this photo also serves as a window back into another time… Life on the waterfront is nearly unrecognizable to a visitor today but for a few surviving landmarks, while action on the wharf and piers show how SF was once a bustling working-class sea-port, far from it’s modern gentrified persona as a tourist destination.

If you have some time to really zoom in on the details, there are new things to see anywhere you may care to look.

Caption: “Photograph of San Francisco in Ruins From Lawrence Captive Airship 2000 feet above San Francisco Bay overlooking waterfront. Sunset over Golden Gate.”

(Image Source: Wikipedia Commons and Public domain)

  • skitter

    I'm shocked to spot four buildings of 10 stories or more, not because they survived the earthquake, but because I was under the impression 10 stories constituted a skyscraper in 1906, and that prior to the elevator, six or eight stories was considered the practical limit.

    • OA5599

      I lived up 16 flights of stairs my freshman year in college. The building did not have enough elevators to begin with, but often some were out of service. The unwritten rule was that at peak times (headed down for breakfast/lunch/dinner/morning classes, headed up 10:45 to 1, and after dinner), it was ok to verbally harass anybody who lived below the 8th floor who attempted to ride the elevator.

      Even though I lived high enough to ride, it was still faster for me to take the stairs in the morning, and when I came back from classes around noon, carrying a backpack full of textbooks and punchcards.

      Of course, back then I was a fit teen and not a guy who could stand to lose a few pounds, 1906 San Fracisco probably had fewer computer geeks and (percentage-wise) more blue-collar workers than they do today.

  • I've never been able to confirm this beyond oral tradition, but the story in my hometown of Gardiner, OR, is that we produced some of the lumber that went into rebuilding the city. In turn we ended up with shiploads of quake debris that had been used as ballast and that this material became fill for a couple of local bridges.

  • Fuhrman16

    So is Pete the only AT contributor who can remember their password or something?

    • fodder650

      Are you saying I need to get my game back on?

  • As nifty as that picture is, the photographer who took it turns out to be quite an interesting read, a very inventive turn-of-the-century type with successes in buggy wheels, photography and balooning. That picture was taken with a 49 pound camera attached to a kite.
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    • OA5599

      I used to work in a building that had housed a printing company for many decades until it abruptly shut down.. They left behind some sort of camera like that, probably around 4/5ths the size of the one pictured. The lens traveled on rails to focus, and rolled very smoothly.

      It took up a fair amount of space, but it was mounted in an out-of-the-way location, so we didn't bother removing it.

  • P161911

    Here is the same location today.