Monday, May 22, 2017

The tragedy at the Valencia Street Hotel during the 1906 earthquake: 22 May 2017


Much of San Francisco is built on one of three surfaces: steep hillsides, sand dunes, or former marshland. Of these surfaces, marshlands are probably the most treacherous. To erect structures on marshland, enormous amounts of fill: sand, dirt, and debris, must be brought to the location and dumped until a firm, dry surface is achieved. During the 1906 earthquake, buildings on “made ground" suffered the most damage because the ground was unstable and unsettled. This process, called soil liquefaction, takes place when loosely packed, waterlogged sediments at or near the surface lose strength and cohesiveness in response to strong ground shaking. Soil liquefaction occurring beneath buildings can cause significant structural damage during earthquakes.



By the early 1890s, an old creek and lagoon, in the area in which the Valencia Street Hotel was eventually constructed in 1896, was filled in with dirt, sand, and debris, and then built over. The severe jolts of the 18 April 1906 earthquake caused the soft-packed fill to settle quickly, leaving sinkholes in the street. The buildings on top of the earth fill rocked back and forth, with many buildings falling off of their foundations. The four-story Valencia Street Hotel, located between 18th Street and 19th Street, collapsed into a sinkhole. The top floor dropped to ground level and remained accessible; the bottom three floors collapsed into the sinkhole below the surface of the earth, crushing at least 25 people to death. An additional 20 or 25 individuals drowned due to flooding from a burst water main. There were still people alive under the rubble; rescuers tore apart the top of the building and saved about fifteen people, but more cries for help were heard. Rescue efforts continued for two days. On the third day, the area was engulfed in the firestorm, and those people still alive and trapped in the Valencia Street Hotel were incinerated. The exact death toll is unknown; it is estimated that between seventy-five and one hundred people died in the Valencia Street Hotel.





The four-story Valencia Street Hotel as seen shortly after the earthquake was located on the west side of Valencia Street between 18th and 19th Streets. It collapsed as a result of soil liquefaction. The liquefaction also broke two major water mains along Valencia Street, and the breakage was responsible for the loss of water with which to fight fires in the downtown area. The view is looking northwest. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.




Built in 1896, the Valencia Street Hotel was a four-story wood frame structure with a brick foundation. The Mission district was originally a marshland with creeks and shallow lakes. Landfill began in the 1860s, and by 1888 four hundred acres of solid ground had been created, or so it was thought. There was still a lake flowing underneath the Valencia Street Hotel, named by the Spanish as The Lake of Our Lady of Sorrows. The view is looking northwestClick on the image to see the full-size photo.



Shortly after the Valencia Street Hotel boarding house collapsed, a large part of the street caved in because two large underground water mains taking water to the downtown section of the city broke due to the quake. With the broken water mains, there was little or no water to be used to extinguish the fires in San Francisco. This picture was probably taken the day after the quake. The general population is now being kept away from the Valencia Street Hotel, and you can see that the rescue workers have already entered the hotel from the roof. Four government officials are on site, and they are evaluating the situation. The view is looking northwest.  Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.




This is a view of the top floor of the hotel sitting on the ground. Floors one through three fell into an underground sinkhole. The view is looking northwest. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.


 Here is another view of the hotel. Cable Car tracks are visible in the street bed. The view is looking north.  Click on the image to see the full-size photo.



 This is a view of Valencia Street looking south from 18th Street. A United Railroad cable car is sitting on the tracks. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.



       A coroner’s wagon is on the street in front of the hotel, and the dead are being removed from the location. The view is looking south. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.




 A view of workers and supervisors on site at the hotel. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.



This is a view from Valencia Street near 19th Street. The picture was taken on Wednesday, 16 May 1906, approximately thirty days after the quake. Two temporary water lines are visible on either side of the street. The buildings standing in the background are on the west side of Dolores Street, the local boundary of the fire. The view is looking southwest. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.



THEN  This is either the last, or close to the last picture of the Valencia Street Hotel. The area appears deserted. A forlorn cable car is sitting on the tracks with the firestorm about a block away from this location, and moving fast. The view is looking north. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

NOW  This is a view from Valencia Street between 18th Street and 19th Street. The hotel was ahead on the left. The view is looking north, and downtown skyscrapers are seen in the distance. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.


NOW  This was the location of the Valencia Street Hotel. This brick building was constructed in 1916. It was originally used as an automobile garage and repair facility. Today it is occupied by a liquor bar and a coffee shop. The view is looking west. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.




“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lang 


The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photo galleries.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with an Olympus 17mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com


Friday, May 12, 2017

The Mission District, Then & Now: 12 May 2017


At  5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 April 1906, an earthquake violently shook San Francisco and the surrounding area. The earthquake caused significant deaths, injuries, and property damage. The primary cause of death and destruction in San Francisco was due to the fires that burned out of control through a significant portion of the city for three consecutive days and nights. Contemporary reports state that more than fifty fires were burning throughout the city. After the fires had burned-out, the Federal Government gathered information as to the extent of the fire damage. The U.S. Geological Survey in 1907 published a map showing the area destroyed by the fire. You can view the 1907 Geological Survey fire map hereMore than one hundred thousand San Franciscans were left homeless;  almost all of San Francisco's park lands and the Federal Government's open lands in the city were used as temporary housing areas. The Presidio military base and Golden Gate Park were among the many locations where people put up tents, tarpaulins or small wooden shelters.

THEN  This photo was taken from Mission Dolores Park, a San Francisco park used as a site for temporary housing after the fires were extinguished. The large building ahead, built in 1896, is Mission High School. The road just to the right of this picture and out of view is Dolores Street, a street with a wide median strip separating opposing traffic, see below. If you look at the Fire Map, you will observe that Dolores Street was a boundary point of the fires. Fire destroyed a significant number of buildings in the Mission DistrictBy the time this picture was taken many temporary shelters had already been constructed. The view is looking north. (Courtesy of California Historical Society, G-1379.) Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.


Dolores Street  This photograph was taken in 1944. Mission High School, built in 1922-27, is visible, as is a portion of Mission Dolores Park. This photo was posted to show the width of Dolores Street. It is likely that the street acted as a fire barrier in April 1906. The view is looking north. (Courtesy of California Historical Society) Click on the image to see the full-size photo.



NOW  The original Mission High School survived the 1906 earthquake and fires. Mission High School was destroyed by fire in 1922 because of a faulty heating system. The high school was rebuilt, and students were able to re-attend classes in 1927. This is a picture of the rebuilt school ninety years after it opened its doors to students. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.


THEN  This photograph was taken in 1880. The location is at the intersection of Nineteenth Street and Mission Street. Please note the horse-drawn streetcar traveling south on Mission Street and the wooden plank sidewalks. This locality was destroyed in the April 1906 firestorm. (Courtesy of California Historical Society, FN-30768.) Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

NOW  This area of Mission Street is in the heart of the Mission District; it is busy and vibrant. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This is 501 Capp Street. The cross street is Twentieth Street. The fire reached to within one-half block of this location. The picture was taken on 22 April 1906, four days after the earthquake. Please note the cooking stoves on the street near the sidewalk. They are on the street because immediately after the earthquake government officials instructed all residents of San Francisco to stop cooking food over open flames inside of buildings until further notice. There was a danger of additional quakes and ruptured gas lines.(Courtesy of California Historical Society, FN-34500.) Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

NOW  This is a quiet location. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  The bicycle ardor sweeping late-nineteenth-century America flourished in San Francisco. Despite the unpaved streets and dirt roads, many bicyclists, then known as wheelmen, rode their bicycles with great enthusiasm. The last two decades of the nineteenth century brought significant change for cycling enthusiasts. The League of American Wheelmen, established in 1880, advocated rider safety and helped to secure paved roads. The L.A.W. became the country’s premier bicycling association, providing the infrastructure for members to participate in races, learn riding etiquette, and access touring maps and other publications. This picture shows a group of bicyclists in 1890 before they embark on a 100-mile bike ride sponsored by the League of American Wheelmen. The location is at the intersection of Twenty-first Street and Capp Street. This spot is one and one-half blocks from the fire's border. The view is looking west. (Courtesy of California Historical Society, FN-06001.) Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

NOW  This is a quiet area in the Mission. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This house, located at the northwest corner of Twenty-second Street and York Street, was built for the founder of the Old Milwaukee Brewery. The fire did not come close to this location. This picture was taken circa the 1930s.(Courtesy of Etienne Simon.) Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

NOW  The house has been well maintained, and the current owner is a dedicated gardener. The view is looking north. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This picture was taken on Saturday, 18 December 1915. The location is the intersection of Twenty-sixth Street and Treat Avenue. This area was more than seven blocks from the firestorm boundary. The view is looking north. (Courtesy of St. Anthony-Immaculate Conception School.) Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

NOW  A quiet area of the Mission District. Some of the houses visible in the 1915 photo are still standing. Click on the image to see the full-size picture.

THEN  Built in 1883, this is San Francisco's oldest standing firehouse; it is a brick firehouse that has a front surface made entirely of cast iron. It was the home of Engine Company No. 13 until 1958. The firehouse was sold by the City in 1959, and the building is now privately owned. This picture is undated. Since there is no sign on the building indicating that it is a firehouse, I believe the picture was taken after the building was sold by the City and County of San Francisco. I presume that the picture is circa the 1960s. (Courtesy of San Francisco Fire Department.) Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

NOW  The former home of San Francisco Fire Department Engine Company No. 13 is now known simply as 1458 Valencia Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

THEN  Anthony Baciocco came to San Francisco from Italy in 1887. He was then introduced to Rosa Muzio, his future wife. Rosa and Anthony became the parents of six children; four girls, and two boys. Anthony worked at a produce farm located in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco before he opened Progress Fruit Market on Twenty-fourth Street at Guerrero Street. (Courtesy of the Baciocco Family). Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

NOW  The building is still standing, but Progress Fruit Market’s large entryway on the Twenty-fourth Street side of the building has been permanently closed. The location is now occupied by a coffee shop with a conventional entryway. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

THEN  Catherine Loftus was born in Ireland. She moved to 3392 Twenty-second Street with her husband and three children. This picture was taken in 1897; it shows Catherine and her three children standing in front of the two-unit apartment building. (Courtesy of the Loftus family.) Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

NOW  This is the same building; it has been significantly altered. The structure was raised, and a lower level was added to the building; the lower addition is now occupied by a liquor bar. The wooden exterior has been replaced with a stucco exterior; the windows have also been changed.The location is Twenty-second Street at Guerrero Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.
The distance traveled was approximately 5.2 miles (8.4 kilometers). The cumulative elevation gain was about 223 feet (68 meters). Mile markers are displayed on the GPS generated track. Click on the image to see the full-size map

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lang 


The book San Francisco’s Mission District was helpful in assembling this gallery of ‘Then and Now’ photographs.

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photo galleries.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with an Olympus 17mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

San Francisco Botanical Garden: 9 May 2017

This ramble to the San Francisco Botanical Garden started at West Portal and finished on Geary Boulevard.


This UPS driver is delivering a large shipment of packages. The location is in a commercial area of the Inner SunsetClick on the image to see the full-size photograph.

The West Portal Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was built by the Federal Works Progress Administration between 1938 and 1939. The branch is located on Lenox Way at Ulloa Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

The entryway to a duplex located on Tenth Avenue in the Inner Sunset. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

A house located on Tenth Avenue in the Inner Sunset. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

This apartment building originally had a neighborhood grocery store located at street level. The Inner Sunset. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

I believe that this building was originally constructed as a neighborhood grocery store. The Inner Sunset. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

Arizmendi Bakery, a worker owned cooperative, was founded in 2000. It is located on Ninth Avenue near Judah Street in the Inner Sunset District. The Arizmendi Association is made up of seven member businesses. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

Plans for the San Francisco Botanical Garden (formerly Strybing Arboretum) were originally laid out in the 1880s by park supervisor John McLaren, but funding was insufficient to begin construction until Helene Strybing left a major bequest in 1927. Planting was begun in 1937, and the arboretum officially opened in May 1940. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

In the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

In the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

Traveling on a Muni Metro 38R bus heading east on Geary Boulevard. The destination is downtown San Francisco, as seen ahead in the distance. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

The distance traveled was approximately 5.6 miles (9.0 kilometers). The cumulative elevation gain was about 553 feet (168.5 meters). Mile markers are displayed on the GPS generated track. Click on the image to see the full-size map.


This chart shows the elevation changes encountered during this ramble. Click on the image to see the full-size graph.



“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” -Dorothea Lange



The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photo galleries.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with an Olympus 17mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com

Friday, May 5, 2017

West Portal to Timbuk2 in the Mission District: 5 May 2017

I had an appointment to view the Timbuk2 messenger bag manufacturing facility located in the Mission District of San Francisco. I started the walk to Timbuk2 at West Portal and walked through Diamond Heights, Noe Valley, and the Mission District before arriving at the Timbuk2 factory for an informative one hour tour.


Yes! The fast moving runner was able to board the J-Church Muni Metro light rail streetcar; its final destination is downtown San FranciscoThis location is at the intersection of Church Street and Twenty-fourth Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

Here is a partial view of Glen Canyon Park as seen from the top of the ravine. John McLaren Park is visible in the distance; the view is looking south. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

This is a view of the newly completed Noe Valley Town Square. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

Here is a view of San Francisco Landmark #234. This is the Mission District Branch Library which is located at the southwest corner of Bartlett Street and Twenty-fourth Street. The library was opened to the public in 1916. Andrew Carnegie paid for the cost of its construction. Thank you, Andrew Carnegie! Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

The street art surrounding the House of Brakes on Twenty-fourth Street has been updated, and it looks amazing. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

A view of a MUNI bus stop, a small above-ground section of the 24th Street Mission BART station, and Taqueria El Farolito. The location is Mission Street at Twenty-fourth Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.
This building has had an interesting history. It was built in the early 1900s, before the 1906 earthquake. It was originally St. Johannes' German Evangelical Lutheran Mission. The building, located on Twenty-second Street near Capp Street, was just out of reach of the 1906 fire that destroyed a large portion of the Mission District. In 1992 the congregation moved to a smaller building around the corner. This building then became a private residence. The plan was to divide the building into condominiums. At the last moment, the United International World Buddhism Association purchased the building for $2.5 million in 2002. It is now the Hua Zang Si temple. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

I joined about twenty people on a tour of the Timbuk2 headquarters building and factory. Timbuk2 is a San Francisco original, it was founded in 1989 by a bike messenger in a garage in the Mission District; not far from its current location. Since its inception, Timbuk2 has designed quality bags and packs. Click on the image to see the full-size photo.

This is the Bethany Center Senior Housing building. It is located in the Mission District on Capp Street at Twenty-first Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

The distance traveled was approximately 5.7 miles (9.2 kilometers). The cumulative elevation gain was about 318 feet (97 meters). Mile markers are displayed on the GPS generated track. Click on the image to see the full-size map.

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” -Dorothea Lange


The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photo galleries.

Sony RX100 camera was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com