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Sydney Tyler.

San Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. online

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street^ erected at a cost of $2,500,000; the Crocker Build-
ing, at Montgomery and Market streets, worth $1,000,000;
the Mills Building, at Bush and Montgomery streets, cost-
ing $1,000,000; the new Shreve Building, at Post street and
Grant avenue, costing $2^000,000 and occupied on April
I, by the largest jewelry store on the coast^ are some of
the new structures destroyed by the flames. The Shreve
Jewelry Company carried a stock worth $2,000,000.

On Market street, the Phelan Building, one of the
earliest attempts at a pretentious work of architecture in
the business section and covering the most valuable piece
of real estate in San Francisco, is gone.

FAMOUS OLD HOTELS.

The Occidental Hotel, on Montgomery street, i
years the headquarters for army officers; the old Lick
House, built by the philanthropist, James Lick; the old
Russ House, also on Montgomery street; the Nevada
National Bank Block, the Bayward Building, at California
and Montgomery streets, a modern structure of ten stor-
ies: the severe Gothic style California National Bank, the



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no SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

First National Bank, the Canadian Bank of Commerce, the
London and San Francisco Bank, on California street; the
London, Paris and American Bank, and the Bank of Brit-
ish North America, on Sansome street; the large German-
American Savings Bank, also on California street, these
are a few of the notable buildings destroyed in that region.
The California Hotel and Theatre, on Bush street,
near Montgomery; the Grand Opera House, on Mission
street, where the Conreid Grand Opera Company had just
opened for a series of two weeks' opera; the Orpheum, the
Columbia, the Alcazar, the Majestic, the Central, and Fish-
er's, were some of the playhouses destroyed.

APARTMENT HOUSES.

Among the splendid apartment houses destroyed are:

On Geary street — ^The St. Augustine, the Alexan-
dria, the Victoria.

On Sutter — The Pleasanton, the Aberdeen, the Wal-
deck, the Granada.

On Pine street — ^The Colonial, the Lomivista, the
Buenavista.

On Pine street — ^The Dufferin, the Hamilton, the El^
lis, the Royal, the Hart, the Ascot, and St. Catharine.

On Farrell street — ^The Eugene, the Knox, the St.
George, the Ramon, and the Gotham.

On Taylor street— The Abbey.

On Eddy street— The Abbottsford.

On Turk street — ^The Netherlands.

On Polk street — The Savoy.

On Bush street— The Plymouth.

San Francisco was famous for the excellency of its
restaurants. Anion.q: them were the "Pup" and 1\1 'rb-



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SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER. I 1 1

and's on Stockton street; the Poodle Dog, Zinkands, and
the Fiesta. They are no more.

FINE PAPERS BURNED OUT.

At the junction of Kearny, Market, and Geary streets
stood the three great newspaper buildings of San Francis-
co — the Call (Spreckles'), the Examiner, and the Chron-
icle. All were destroyed. Two blocks north on Kearney
street w-ere the Bulletin and the Post buildings. They also
are gone.

Among the large department stores destroyed are the
Emporium and Bales & Frager's, on Market street; on
Kearney street, the White House, O'Connor & Moflatt's,
Newman and Levinson, Roos Bros./ Raphael's, the Hub,
and many lesser establishments; on Geary street were the
Davis, the City of Paris, Samuels'; on Post street, Vel
Strausson; on Sansome street, Wallace's, Nathan, Doher-
man & Co., and Bullock & Jones.

PALACE AND GRAND HOTELS.

Here follows more detailed descriptions of a number
of the most important buildings which were destroyed.

The Palace Hotel, at Market and New Montgomery
streets, covered two and one-half acres of land. It was
seven stories high. The building cost $7,000,000, and was
projected by the late W. C. Ralston. The Palace was the
most famous hotel in the city. It was the rendezvous of
many notable men about town, particularly the gourmands
of San Francisco.

The building was a huge pile of stone and brick, in tlu
centre of which was a court, 84 by 144 feet. It had a bu-



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112 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

umen drive for carriages 50 feet in diameter. The floor
of the promenade was paved with marble. The west end
of the court wtis encircled by a series of Doric pillars of
classic design. The pillars were surmounted by a coping
on which were tropical plants and flowers. Tables and
settees were usually scattered about the court, where men
might have an afternoon chat and smoke.

The court was covered by a glass roof, and a goodh
number of the 850 rooms looked out into this opening
which furnished them with a subdued light. The Hotel
Palace was connected by a bridge across New Montgom-
ery street with the Grand Hotel, which was under the
same management, and which was also destroyed.

The Palace Hotel was provided with reading and
smoking rooms, social women's and men's parlors, tele-
graph offices, billiard rooms, five elevators, a restaurant,
and a grill room, which was considered one of the most
elegant dining apartments for men in the world.

The outer and inner partitions were of brick from top
to bottom. Four artesian wells furnished the hotel with
water. From the top of the hotel a fine bird's-eye view of
the city could be obtained. The extent of the corridors
amounted to some two and a half miles. The style of
the building was peculiarly San Franciscan, bay windows
abounding.

THE CLIFF HOUSE.

This stands on Point Lobos, at the south head of the
Golden Gate, on the extreme western coast of the peninsula.
It was incorrectly reported to have slid into the sea. It
was a favorite resort in the Summer, attracting thousands
from the thickly settled eastern section of San Francisco.



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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 113

One could sit on the veranda and look out over the
ocean and watch sea lions playing around the rocks a few
hundred yards distant. Out to the south he could see a
long line of sea beach upon which the breakers rolled.
On a clear day Farallone Islands^ twenty-six miles dis-
tant, can be seen from the spot where stands the Cliff
House.

The huge structure that overlooks the sea was designed
after a French chateau of the seventeenth century. Run-
ning around it was an inclosed balcony. There were parlors,
dining rooms, and halls where photographs of local objects
of interest and curios were sold.

The Cliff House has suffered several disasters. It
was first built in 1863. It was partly wrecked in July,
1 886/ when the schooner Parallel drifted in shore with
80,000 pounds of dynamite on board, which exploded.
Having been rebuilt, it was burned to the ground on the
Christmas night of 1894. Cliff House was seven miles
from the Palace Hotel, and several car lines led to it. Its
keepers boasted that Presidents Grant, Hayes, and Harri-
son had stood on its balconies.

OTHER PROMINENT BUILDINGS.

St Francis Hotel. By the burning of the St. Francis
Hotel, which was consumed, $4,000,000 went up in smoke.
This magnificent house, at the time of its destruction, was
being enlarged at enormous expxense, and filled with
guests. Among those stopping at the hotel when the
building was destroyed were James Riley and wife, of the
Hotel Walcott, New York City; several members of the
Metropolitan Opera Companv, of New York, and many
other Eastern visitors. It was rpported that no one was
injured at the St. Francis.



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114 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

The Call Building. — ^This was the tallest building
on the Pacific Coast, and was occupied by The San Fran-
cisco Call, having in it, besides 272 offices. It was erected
in 1896-7, at the southwest corner of Market and Third
streets. From the basement to the top of the dome was
300 feet. There were sixteen floors. It was constructed
entirely of marble, sandstone and steel, and w^s considered
fireproof. It was of no little architectural beauty. It
was one of the first buildings seen when one entered San
Francisco.

Tlie Crocker Building. — This stood on the gore
made by Post, Montgomery, and Market street. It was
erected in 1892- 1893, at a cost of $1,000,000. It was
eleven stories high, made of Rocklin granite and light
pressed brick, with terra-cotta ornamentations. The
ground floor was occupied by the Crocker-Woolworth
National Bank and Shreve & Co., jewelers. The upper
floors were divided into some 250 offices. The building
was 130 feet, and was one which the San Franciscan al-
ways pointed out to the visitor.

The Fairmount Hotel. — It was just about ready
for occupancy. It was seven stories high and of white
stone. It required two years to construct it, and
it was one of the very finest structures in the city, situated
right across the street from the Mark Hopkins Art In-
stitute, on California street, between Mason and Powell
streets. Its cost was $2,000,000. Mrs. Herman Oelrichs
had traded it for two buildings downtown, both of which
were destroyed. ,

Mark Hopkins Institute. — This was formerly the
magnificent private residence of Mark Hopkins, one of
California's pioneer citizens, at the southeast comer of
California and Mason streets. It was given to the city in



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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 117

1893 by E. F. Searles, of Methuen, Mass. It had been
used for illustration and instruction in the fine arts. It
contained many fine specimens of painting and sculpture.
A spacious gallery had recently been added to the institute.
The interior of the house was finished with rare woods
and beautiful frescoes.

The Lick House. — ^This was one of the quiet, family
hotels of San Francisco, in Montgomery street, between
Sutter and Post streets. The building was completed in
1861 ; it was one of the very old hotels. When it was first
completed its dining hall was considered one of the finest
in the world. The site of the Lick House was once a
sand dune, and the ground sold for $300.

The Grand Opera House. — This stood on the north
side of Mission street, between Third and Fourth streets,
near Market street, the main thoroughfare. Its stage,
which was 100 x 120 feet, was the largest on the other
side of the Rockies. It seated nearly 2,000 people, and cost
$500,000 when it was opened in 1876 as Wade's Opera
House.

Merchants' Exchange. — This three-story building
was on the south side of California treet, between Mont-
gomery and Sansome streets. It was surmounted by a clock
tower 120 feet high. Incorporated in 1868 by the State,
the Merchants' Exchange had for its object the acquire-
ment, preservation, and dissemination of informaticn con-
cerning commercial and maritime exchange. The United
States Hydrographic office was in the building.

The Occidental Hotel. — ^This hotel was a sort of
headquarters for army and navy officers in San Francisco
and visitors from the Pacific islands. It occupied the en-
tire block on the east side of Montgomery street, between
Sutter and Bush streets, and was a rather old-style four-



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ii8 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

story building, with cement facings, though its table was
noted in the city.

The Russ House. — ^This was a merchants and far-
mers' hotel. It was one of the old-style, low, rambling
buildings, being only three stories high, but covering the
entire block on the west side of Montgomery street, be-
tween Bush and Pine streets. It was erected in 1862 b-y
Christian Russ, who bought the site in 1847.

Mills Building. — This was one of the finest build-
ings in the city, being ten stories high and made of Cali-
fornia marble, light-pressed brick and terra-cotta. It cost
$1,500,000. and was put up in 1891-2 by D. O. Mills at the
northeast corner of Montgomery and Bush streets. The
threJe entrances from Bush, Pine and Montgomery streets
led into a great open court* in the centre. The entrance from
Montgomery street w^s through a magnificent marble
arch that extended to the top of the second story. The
halls were tiled and wainscoted with marble. A complete
law library was supplied for the use of the tenants. The
United States Weather Bureau had its headquarters on
the top floor, with the signal station on the roof. This was
another building which the San Franciscan was always
proud to point out to the visitor. Built of iron, stone,
bricks and marble throughout, it was thought to be proof
against both earthquakes and fires.

City Hall. — This occupied a large three-cornered
tract of land bounded by Larkin and McAlister streets
and City Hall avenue. It required twenty-five years to
erect this building, and San Franciscans learned to desig-
nate a long period of time by saying, "As long as it wiH
take to build the City Hall." It cost between $7,000,000
and $9,000,000. Connected with the City Hall was the
Hall of Records, which was surmounted by a dome 134.



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SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER. II9

feet high. The building was surrounded by Corinthian p\\ •
lars forty-eight feet high.

The land upon which the City Hall stood was form-
erly the Yerba Buena Cemetery, and there once lay the
bodies of the early pioneers of the city. The bodies were
removed to Laurel Hill and other cemeteries in the early
sixties. In the northwest wing of the building was the
City Prison. The Receiving Hospital occupied a like posi-
tion in the southwest wing.

St. Ignatius Church. — This was the largest church
in the city. It stood in the fashionable district, on Hayes
street^ between Van Ness avenue and Franklin street. It
cost $2,000,000, and was the finest Jesuitical church in
the world. Its spires, 275 feet high, were the tallest in Cali-
fornia. Its organ was the second largest in America, and
was the only one on the coast operated by electricity. It
weighed 100,000 pounds. Its central columns were sur-
niounted by life-sized angels with trumpets, and the outer
ones supporting huge urns holding burning torches. The
organ was presented to the church by Mrs. Welch. The
main hall of the church was 200 feet long. Hanging over
the altar was a large oil painting representing the recep-
tion in heaven of St. Ignatius Loyola.

The Chronicle Building. — ^This was one of the first
high buildings erected in San Francisco. It was nine
stories high, surmounted by a bronze clock tower 210 feot
high. The building was of pressed brick and a dark brown
sandstone that is found in Ventura County. The building
was fitted with all modern improvements. It was one of
the handsome buildings that made Newspaper Corner a
centre of no little architectural beauty. The Chronicle
occupied the basement, the first floor, and the top floor
all the other floors being rented as offices.



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720 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

The Examiner Building. — Before this collapsed it
was eight stories high, standing on the southeast corner of
Market and Third streets, the corner near which were all
the big newspaper ofHces. The offices of The Examiner,
Mr. Hearst's San Francisco paper, occupied the rotunda
of the building, the rest being rented for offices. The
building was of the Spanish Renaissance style. The sever-
ity of its exterior was broken by the ornamented windows
of the second story and the loggias with their decorated
columns along the top stories.

The Hall of Justice. — ^This was one of the newest, if
not the newest^ public buildings in the city. It was situated
on the east side of Kearny street^ between Washington
and Merchant streets, opposite Portsmouth Square. The
cornerstone was laid in 1896. . It contained Police Head-
quarters^ the police courts, and the Criminal Departments
of the Superior Court. It stood on notorious ground. It
was in that neighborhood that the most famous gambling
dens were located, and there, later on, the Jenny Lind
Theatre was burned down and rebulit.

Parrott Building. — ^This big seven-storied building
occupied the site of the old Jesuit Church on the south side
of Market street, between Fourth and Fifth streets. Tlie
two lower floors were occupied by the Emporium, one of
the biggest department stores in the world. This store
used nine acres of floor space, maintained sixty depart-
ments, and employed 2,000 persons. Its shelves were of
mahogany with marble bases. A dome 100 feet high sur-
mounted the building.

Phelan Building. — Situated at the gore of Market
and O'Farrel streets and Grant avenue, this large, five-
story building was conspicuous in the sight of one walking
up the main thoroughfare of Market street. It was the



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SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER. 121

headquarters for the California Department of the United
States Army.

Hibernia Bank. — This bank stood at the junction
of Market^ Jones, and McAlister streets, and was #ne of
the handsomest buildings in San Francisco. It was con-
structed of white granite with Corinthian columns. A
massive dome surmounted the roof, and the entrance at
the corner was ornamented by graceful columns of granite.

CaHfornia Hotel. — ^This hotel was situated on the
north side of Bush street^ above Kearny. It was eight
stories high, made of carved stone and pressed brick. It
was opened in 1890 and was one of the first-class hotels
of the city.

Grace Church. — ^This was one of the older churches
of the city, hr.ving been built in 1866, the corner-stone
being laid by Bishop W. I. Kipp. It stood at the southeast
corner of California and Stockton streets, on the eastern
slope of the hill of California street, and was a conspicuous
object from downtown. It cost $125,000.

Orpheum Theatre. — ^This theatre presented the
best class of varieties in the West. It had the largest seat-
ing capacity of any playhouse in San Francisco, seating 2,-
500 people. It stood on the south side of OTarrel street,
between Powell and Stockton streets.

The Columbia Theatre. — ^This was a pretty little
playhouse, situated on the west side of Powell street, above
Market street, opposite the Baldwin Hotel. It seated
1,400 people, and was first opened as Stockwell's Theatre.

Mechanics' Pavilion. — ^The pavilion stood at Larkin
and Grove streets, and there every year the Mechanics'
Institute gave an industrial exhibition.



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122 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

LOSS OF THE SUTRO LIBRARY.

An irreparable loss of the San Francisco earthquake
was the destruction of the great Sutro library of old books
This was stored in two divisions, one in the Upham Build-
ing, at Pine and Battery streets, and one in a building at
Montgomery and Washington.

Adolph Sutro made a fortune in the Comstock and
the other Nevada silver properties in the early days. Later
he built a five cent road to the Ocean Beach, in opposition
to the regular street car companies, which were charging
a ten cent fare, built a park overlooking the Cliff House
and Seal Rocks, which he gave to the people of San Fran-
cisco, and handed over to them also the Sutro baths,
having the largest swimming tank under roof in the world.
On the strength of these gifts and his genuine personal
popularity he was elected Mayor of San Francisco.

Early in his career Sutro developed a hobby for old
books and conceived the idea of collecting a great library
of them. For ten years he and his agents bought all over
the world. Although he was imposed upon by a great
many forgeries and acquired much that was valueless, he
made some fortunate purchases, and his wholesale method
of buying enabled him to get a great deal of gold along
with the dross.

For example, in 1886 or thereabouts, Bavaria con-
fiscated the property of the Catholic monasteries in the
kingdom. Their books were lumped into one great lot,
and Sutro bought them all, including thousands of manii-
scripts dating back before the age of printing, which had
never come under the notice of scholars. In the same way,
when the Mexican Government discovered a forgotten
collection of books, memorials, diaries and manuscript*;



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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 123

Ijearing upon the early history of California and Lower
California^ especially the mission period in the boundaries
of the present United States, he bought them all. This
collection, from which it was prophesied the true history
of the old Pacific Coast would some day be written, was
never even taken from its boxes. He had a standing order
with Quaritch for certain lines of books, and he was willing
to pay anything for what he wanted. In the end the col-
lection reached a total of about 225,000 volumes.

When it had grown to that size Sutro brought a book-
man named Moss from the British Museum, and had him
make a beginning of classifying and cataloguing it. Moss
began to straighten it out, but he had worked only a
year or two when he died. In 1897 Sutro died also.

It had been his intention to give the collection either
to the University of California or to the city. But he left
no late will. The only one in existence was drawn up
before the time of his collection, and it left all his books
and papers to his sister. Dr. Emma Sutro Merrit. There
followed a double contest over his property, which was
found to have depreciated greatly. A Mrs. Kluge ap-
peared, who said that she was his wife by a contract mar-
riage; and some of his children by his first marriage raised
a contest of their own. The estate has remained ever since
tangled in the courts. Dr. Merrit, who had temporary
custodianship of the library, closed it absolutely. Since
that time, no one has been permitted to enter it except
a custodian and an occasional scholar who has been able
to get through the red tape which surrounded it.



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124 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

COLLECTION NEVER CLASSIFIED.

Since the collection has never been classified, no one
living knows absolutely just what was there. Here, how-
ever, are some of the known treasures.

He had a complete collection of Shakespeare folios —
first, second, third and fourth. Some of the early pages
of his first folio were missing and were supplied in fac-sim-
ile. The pages of the second folio were slightly scorched,
because it had passed through the London fire — to perish
in the San Francisco fire two and a half centuries later.
There was nearly a full set of folios of Ben Jonson.

The collection of Shakesperiana included the rent roll
of Shottery Meadow, Stratford, which he had some diffi-
culty in getting out of England, the newspapers and the
authorities of the British Museum declaring that such
documents should not go out of their country.

An old prayer book and a hymnal, bound literally in
boards, were interesting historically; for authenticated
documents showed that they were the very books placed
in the hands of Charles II. on his re-entry into London
after the Restoration. His collection of the Book of Com-
mon Prayer was very strong, including most of the famous
editions from the time of Edward VI. down to the last
century.

A random summary of the other "show" books would
include some specimens of Gutenberg and Caxton print-
ings a great deal of fine work from the Aldine and Elzivir
presses, several firsts of Ben Franklin, and many rare and
valuable incunabula. Of the Hebrew collection, said to be
very valuable, less is known, but some of the scrolls dated
back to the tenth century and the one most valuable work
in the collection, according to Sutro, was one of these



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Copyright, Judge Co., 1906.
FACING ALTAR'RUINS OF MEMORIAL CHURCH, LKLAND
•TANFORO UNIVimiTY.



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SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER. 12/

Hebrew manuscripts. It was valued at $io,cxx)^ and
Sutro had some correspondence over it with the Vatican
authorities, who wanted to buy it and paid for a transcrip-
tion of its text.

There was also discovered a few years ago an incom-
plete and uncatalogued Shakespeare first folio which he
bought in a lump with a number of other old books.

Outside of these books^ valuable only to a biblio-
maniac, there was a great mass of matter which made
strong appeal to scholars, and which would have made this
library of great value to any university. His collection of



Online LibrarySydney TylerSan Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. → online text (page 7 of 25)