Post image for 1906 SF earthquake left few waterfront survivors

1906 SF earthquake left few waterfront survivors

in Historic San Francisco

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a major earthquake ruptured California’s San Andreas Fault, forever changing the city of San Francisco.

The earthquake and the  resulting fires that followed are ranked among the nation’s worst natural disasters. The death toll remains uncertain, but is estimated to have been at least 3,000.  More than 225,000 people were left homeless, and 28,000 buildings were destroyed. The economic impact of the 1906 disaster has been compared with that of Hurricane Katrina.

By comparison, the USGS has calculated that it would take 30 of San Francisco’s 1906 7.7 magnitude earthquakes to equal the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan.

As for the waterfront, it was devastated by the ’06 earthquake (the photo above was taken soon afterward from the Ferry Building Tower). The two lone waterfront survivors from pre-earthquake times are the Audiffred Building, home to Boulevard Restaurant, and the Ferry Building.

Both these buildings were magnificent in their time. Today, as a testament to survival, they are even more so.

See a video showing Market Street days before the 1906 earthquake

Read about the Ferry Building Marketplace

The SF Waterfront Editors Recommend…

How exactly has San Francisco’s urban landscape changed in the hundred years since the earthquake and cataclysmic firestorms that destroyed three-quarters of the city in 1906? For this provocative rephotography project, bringing past and present into dynamic juxtaposition, renowned photographer Mark Klett has gone to the same locations pictured in forty-five compelling historic photographs taken in the days following the 1906 earthquake and fires and precisely duplicated each photograph’s vantage point.

The result is an elegant and powerful comparison that challenges our preconceptions about time, history, and culture. After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006 features a vivid essay by noted environmental historian Philip Fradkin on the events surrounding and following the 1906 earthquake, which he describes as “the equivalent of an intensive, three-day bombing raid, complete with many tons of dynamite that acted as incendiary devices.” A lyrical essay by acclaimed writer Rebecca Solnit considers the meaning of ruins, resurrection, and the evolving geography and history of San Francisco. The paperback edition is about $17. Get it here: After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006.

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