San Francisco: 1906 vs. 1907, 1908 and 1909

Was somewhat bewildered by this 2 and 3 year San Francisco metamorphosis. If you remember, this unfortunate event happened on 04/18/1906, and below are the consequences.
SF: April 1906 - larger image

SF in 1 Year: 1907
San Francisco rising from ruins, April 18, 1907. View southeast from Nob Hill showing reconstruction progress. With ruins of Towne home ("Portals of the Past") in foreground.

1907 SF achievements can be seen here: Link
  • Unbelievable. How many years did it take us to restore New Orleans after Katrina?
SF in 2 Years: May 1908 - larger image

SF in 3 Years: April 1909 - larger image

New 1909 San Francisco
  • The New San Francisco album contains 24 mounted prints taken by Edward N. Sewell in 1909 representing the state of recovery of San Francisco three years after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906 which destroyed much of the city. The album primarily features scenes of the city's financial district, mostly along Market Street and its cross streets. Buildings pictured include the Phelan Building, the Crocker Building, First National Bank, the Palace Hotel, the Chronicle Building, the Monadnock Building, Mutual Bank, the Aronson Building, the Call Building, the Roos Brothers Building, Humboldt Bank, the Flood Building, the Emporium, the Westbank Building, the Fyfe Building, the White House, the City of Paris, the Bank of California, and the Hotel St. Francis. The album also includes a view from the top of the Ferry Building westward, showing the overall development of the portion of the city most damaged by the 1906 disaster.

KD: As far as I understand, 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1909 conditions of San Francisco are officially dated. Hard to believe TPTB could lay an egg like this. Yet, it’s right here in our face. What kind of infrastructure did they have back then?

Considering that I probably do not comprehend things like I used to: Is this a normal "rebuild" speed?
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  • I believe the video below is related. Makes one wonder how a video like that gets lost.

    Additionally, I would like to know who cleaned up all the streets from the debris. I do not think I have ever seen a photograph where adequately street clearing efforts were present. It’s like all the streets are always debris free, no matter which post-fire or earthquake city we look at.


    New member
    I have seen the whole video and noticed a few things.
    At 11:50 min (and briefly at 3:06 min) the pavement seems to be at 1st floor level. Means the building collapsed below street level?
    Everyone wearing a hat.
    People in tents, people on the move with their belongings, people queuing, but they all seem well dressed, and well behaved.

    After an earthquake I don't expect this:
    Wooden poles and trees and beautiful lampposts still standing straight and some buildings in seemingly good shape, yet the all around it everything collapsed completely.
    Some building that are still (partly) standing are completely see-through.
    Trams operating, there is roads and tracks repair work being done. I have not spotted cracks in the streets which i would expect after an earthquake.

    There is debris in the streets in this video, and people cleaning it up. But the amount of debris seems too little. As if it all collapsed vertically. Nothing tipped over.


    New member
    I think in the film clip above a notation stated that it was Taken May 1906, when the damage occurred in April. However, in older postcards pics, it looks like the amount of damage done was centered in residential areas and not in the center of the town (those buildings that were made to last - see attachments). I see the market street with the "bank" and "US Reserve Treasury" seen on cards at the top of this page managed to survive and thrive. I wonder if the insurance business was alive and well during this time period - to pick up the majority of fallen homes on pennies on the dollar. I especially liked the map that was linked in this website 1915 that does show the California and Van Hess Streets depicted in the postcards below - looks eery that the downtown looks fine. Not sure where the old City Hall Building was - on one of the postcards, it notes that the Cost of the City Hall building was $20 Million, Built in 20 years, and took only 20 Seconds to destroy. Makes you wonder, if any downtown building was truly "destroyed' and not re-finished in years after - if a complete building cost $20 Million and took 20 years to complete

    Right Arm

    I have often thought that a lot of these city devastating fires could be somehow linked to the rise or to even bolster the need for the fire service as it is one of the services that benefited the most from such disasters with the implementation of fire codes, building regs backed up by lengthy acts/statues.
    I find it highly suspicious that they would also be on hand with the trusty method of stopping the fire spreading by using dynamite.

    Now in the grand scheme of things I have been referred to many times as a dumbass, but even I know that using dynamite to extinguish a fire is a pretty daft idea.

    The city used explosives in an attempt to clear a path, but untrained crews instead helped spread the fire.

    Source, The Great Quake: 1906-2006 / The dynamite disaster