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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Stop the Presses: 1906

Stop the Presses: 1906

San Francisco, 1906. "The Call newspaper building from Grant Avenue." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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The sacrifice of the firefighters

According to some stories I've read (and the very first "American Experience" documentary shown on PBS), several firefighters were trapped on the upper floors of the building, and incinerated. In the book "Denial of Disaster" it says that the fire spread from a nearby SFG&E power plant, and went up the elevator shafts, burning the building from the top floors down.

Point Taken

You're right, Anonymous Tipster. The "soulless" comment WAS pretentious twaddle. (I prefer "theatrical.") I'll try to avoid such drivel in the future. I see now that the building has great art deco/moderne appeal, especially at street level; I can see why you and your neighbors like it.

Re: Domectomy

This is a pretty hideous example of Early Skyscraper. The top looks like a cross between a salt shaker and a giant Easter egg. As for the makeover being "neutered and utterly soulless," what a lot of pretentious twaddle. The people who actually live in this neighborhood think it's rather handsome. Count me among them.


I've never been a fan of Le Corbusier, but I have to admit that
there was something creepy and unsettling about the unreasonable
number of oculus dormers on the otherwise handsome dome of the
Call Building. Still, it was far preferable to the neutered and utterly
soulless structure of today.

Moving Day

I work down the street from the Call Building-Spreckels Building-Central Tower. There is a persistent rumor that the building moved 6 inches to two feet east during the earthquake. If you stand on the Third Street side, the edge of the building does not align with the building next door.

Worse was yet to come ...

The famous modern architect Le Corbusier trashed this building in his seminal work of 1923, Vers une architecture (Towards an Architecture): "Let us listen to the counsels of American engineers. But let us beware of American architects. The proof -- followed by an arrow pointing to a badly retouched and unidentified photograph of the Call Building.


The Call Building survived the earthquake and fire only to fall victim to an "upgrade" to its exterior. It continues to stand on Market Street as the Central Tower underneath and is several stories higher than in 1906. I've attached a shot of it taken in Sept. of 2009 from the identical perspective.

The Call ablaze

The Call building on fire after the earthquake. Seen here on Shorpy.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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