The Heroic Stop of the 1906 Great Fire

SLIDE SHOW: The aftermath of the 1906 earthquake stirred the resolve of San Francisco citizens to take back their City from the corrupt political bosses. Many groups, often related to the largely intact Mission District were formed. The Mission Merchants Association was formed in 1909 as part of this movement as was the election of San Francisco's greatest Mayor, Mission Jim, who became better known as Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph who presided over our glorious 1910s and 1920s.

The world’s first major natural disaster to have its effects recorded by photography ranks as one of the worst natural disasters in US history and one of the most significant earthquakes of all times. The fires burned for three days and three nights destroying all of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods but Mission resident perseverance combined with a few fortunate water reservoirs eventually triumphed.

The Dolores Lagoon re-energized by a broken main, swallowed the largest hotel ever built in the Mission District before arrived in the 2010s. Dolores Park provided a ringside seat for the many residents who wondered if their homes would be dynamited or reduced to ashes and afterwards welcomed the thousands of displaced Irish on their first post-quake stop before resettling in the Mission from their destroyed homes in SOMA and elsewhere. Learn why the downtown 1906 Great Quake commemoration is always followed by an April 18th 5:45 event at the 20th & Church Golden Hydrant. [Click the above image for a better white on black viewing] of our slide-show.]

Map of Mission District Fire Devastation of 1906

April 18th Earthquake Ceremony

WHEN: 4:30 - 5:15 am April 18th every year WHERE 1: Lotta’s Fountain Market/Geary/Kearny, SF then to WHERE 2: 20th & Church Streets at Dolores Park FREE

The fountain was given to the city by Vaudeville performer Lotta Crabtree (1847 – 1924), a native of San Francisco, grateful to the city where her career was launched. Lotta’s fountain was modeled after a lighthouse that appeared in one of her plays and donated in 1875. Charlotte Mignon (Lotta) Crabtree began her career as an understudy to Lola Montez (1821 – 1861) as a young girl performing for miners in the gold country foothills and went on to become America’s most popular stage performer. In the aftermath of the quake, it became a popular meeting spot for survivors, and is today known as San Francisco oldest monument. Lotta is sometimes claimed as a resident of the Mission but was actually just an investor who sold her lot at 90 Fair Oaks in 1886 as she neared retirement in New York.

The Annual Earthquake Ceremony at Lotta’s Fountain on Market [at Geary and Keary) begins at 4:30am.. Beginning in 1924, the ceremony made a point of honoring the citizens of San Francisco who had survived the quake. However last ceremony able to feature a living earthquake survivor parade was in 2015 as the

colorful Mission District Cogswell College student Bill Del Monte (1906 -2016) passed away in January of 2016. In 2015, Hoodline, which includes the Mission in its online reporting interviewed Mr. Del Monte and asked him what was the key to his longevity. "They all ask me" what the secret is, he said with a smile. "I'm going to take it with me." Del Monte who often indulged in a Scotch on April 18th did say “You should enjoy life as much as you can. You are only here for so long.” Meanwhile, Fior d' Italia, the North Beach, restaurant his father, Angelo founded, continues to be America's oldest Italian restaurant. Legend has ​it that Fior d'Italia began in 1886, when a Broadway bordello needed a place to serve its clients. Cogswell College was the West's first technical school, opened in 1886 by Henry Cogswell , a wealthy gold-rush dentist and monument builder.

Schedule of Events:

  • 4:30 am: Commemoration of The San Francisco Great Earthquake & Fire at Lotta’s Fountain (Geary, Market & Kearny Streets)

  • 4:45 am: Master of Ceremonies Welcome Remarks

  • 5:00 am Mayor, Fire Chief, Police Chief introduced. Mayor hangs wreath.

  • 5:11 am: Announce countdown (start countdown just before 5:12)

  • 5:12 am: Sirens

  • 5:13 am: Minute of silence

  • 5:14 am: Sing-a-long “San Francisco”

  • 5:15 am: Announcement/Invitation to 20th and Church Golden Hydrant Painting

  • 5:30 am: 20th and Church Golden Fire Hydrant Painting


UC Berkeley’s Bancroft one of the largest special collections libraries in the United States holding over 600,000 books, 55,000 linear feet of archival and manuscript collections, 8 million photographs and over 20,000 historical maps. Acquired from its founder, Hubert Howe Bancroft, in 1905, The collection began with a focus on the history of California and the North American West including Central America and is by far the largest such collection in the world. . It had begun casually in 1859 when Mr Bancroft asked an employee to create a library near his desk. The collection was housed at 1590 Valencia Street near its junction with Mission from 1881 to 1906 until it was acquired by UC Berkeley and moved across the Bay. Some copies and negatives of the photos in the above slideshow above are now archived there.

On Line Museum Exhibition Intro: 1906 SF Earthquake and Fire Room One: San Francisco in the New Century Room Two: The Day Our City Trembled Room Three: A Firestorm From Hell Room Four: Surviving a City in Ruins Room Five: Reconstructing a New City The Online Archive of California (OAC) is a research gateway to unique and historical materials at archives, libraries, and museums throughout California.


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