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San Francisco Neighborhood

This Web site was funded by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

It was created by Anthropological Studies Center (ASC).

The Neighborhood Through Time

The 1906 Earthquake and the End of a Working Class Community


Untitled (Burned Section of the Mission District towards Howard Street), 1906. Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum Collection, A021288At 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 Temporary earthquake cottages. Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Librarysurvivors 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.

Earthquake destruction in South of Market. Courtesy of  San Francisco Public Transportation CollectionThe 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.








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