The Neighborhood Through Time
The 1906 Earthquake and the End of a Working Class Community
twelve minutes past five in the morning on 18 April, 1906, San Francisco
was shaken by a massive earthquake. The South of Market neighborhood
was devastated – its flimsy buildings constructed over filled-in marshes
and creeks provided little protection for their inhabitants. The worst
however, came later in the day. Scattered fires grew into firestorms
that consumed block after block of collapsed wooden buildings. Firemen,
trying to contend with ruptured water mains, were forced to retreat
to the nat ural fire break offered by Market Street. By the end of the
day, unknown numbers of the South of Market community were dead, and
had scattered to outlying areas. Much of the debris was used to fill
low-lying land in the San Francisco including South of Market.
Many of the South of Market survivors found shelter in small semi-portable cabins set up in city parks. As the rubble was cleared away, some of these cottages were moved from the parks and set up on private lots to replace destroyed houses.
The 1906 earthquake and fire marked a crucial dividing line in the history of the South of Market neighborhood. Just as it had shattered buildings, the disaster destroyed the working class communities that had made South of Market their home.