- Historic Sites
San Francisco Then And Now
On the 100th anniversary of the 1906 calamity, a student of earthquakes seeks its traces in the city he loves most.
April/May 2006 | Volume 57, Issue 2
Today less than two dozen earthquake cottages survive. Many have been altered, in use as garages and storage sheds, and are barely recognizable. Two of them, recently restored to their original conditions, including the color of the paint, which was described in 1906 as “bench-park green,” are on the grounds of the Presidio, behind the Old Post Hospital. The low ceilings and small rooms are surprising, but for people who had been homeless for months and facing winter, they were a very welcome retreat.
Thousands of men were hired to clear the streets of rubble. Train tracks were laid along Market Street and other major thoroughfares to hasten the process; much of the debris went into the filling of a marsh on the north side of the city.
In 1915 San Francisco invited the world to visit the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was built on new land. Officially, the exposition was to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, but San Franciscans knew this was a good opportunity to showcase their rebuilt city. Nineteen million people came. They strolled through magnificent gardens and huge, temporary buildings that housed the exhibitions. Afterward the buildings were razed, the area was subdivided, and the lots were sold, creating the large residential area known as the Marina district.
On October 17, 1989, the largest earthquake since 1906 rocked San Francisco. A section of the Bay Bridge broke. A tiered freeway in Oakland collapsed. In San Francisco the greatest destruction was in the Marina district, the newest made ground in the city.