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Deconstructed: 1906

"Looking up Post Street from Kearney." Aftermath of the April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake and fire. 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.

"Looking up Post Street from Kearney." Aftermath of the April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake and fire. 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.


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Jewelers' Building

Not only did Shreve & Company occupy the building in the background, the building in the foreground, which remarkably still exists, is the firm's new home at 150 Post Street. Even more interesting is that old publications, such as "The Jewelers' Circular" from November 30, 1921, indicate that the 150 Post Street address used to be called the "Jewelers' Building." The Crocker and Langley San Francisco City Directories (SFCD) also confirm this coincidence, and they show numerous professionals in the jewelry making and allied trades as tenants. The 1908 Crocker and Langley SFCD entry for Shreve indicates that they were not able to reopen in their new building until March of 1909 (see below).

There is another photo of the earthquake ravaged building and an interior shot from after the renovations here.

The "Jewelers' Building" apparently had another name before the earthquake, but I cannot read the wording on the sign above the door. See the photo below to have a closer look.

Horse-Drawn Steam Fire-Engine

A week after the conflagration, when people began to return to San Francisco, Los Angeles Times reporter Harry C. Carr—mistaking Post Street for California Street, and using dumb as a synonym for mute—wrote in the April 26 issue:


In the June 2, 1906 edition of Fire and Water Engineering, A. J. Coffee (a fire appliance manufacturer in Oakland) observed that the San Francisco Fire Department had 56 steamers, nine hook and ladder trucks, nine chemical engines, one combination chemical and hose wagon, four turret-batteries, some 120,000 feet of hose, and a force of 500 "brave and skilled men." He went on to note that:

Approximately 38,000 feet of hose were burned. Engines valued at $13,500 were destroyed (including one that was in the repair shop and could not be hauled out since its wheels had been removed). Old No. 12 engine—Old Betsy—in use in the department for 30 years, was burned on the corner of Post and Kearny streets, where she was abandoned since she had no horses. Her remains stand there now among the ruins and tell the story more vividly than words can portray of the utter helplessness of the San Francisco firemen in this terrible calamity.

Too much praise cannot be given the fire department of the efficient manner in which it worked at the off-set, when the fire alarm service was immediately destroyed. The men went out bravely to fight a dozen or more fires, all of which took the proportions of conflagrations almost immediately, and the firemen succeeded in extinguishing several bad fires that were not in the burned district. After their work was finished at these fires, the firemen took up their hose and apparatus and went to work on large fires in the different parts of the city. They did splendid work, until the city water supply gave out, and there is no doubt that, if water had been plentiful, there would be a different story to tell of San Francisco today.

According to the San Francisco Municipal Reports for the Fiscal Year 1905-6, Ending June 30, 1906, the city lost only three engines, and one— a 1872 Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine, 2d size, No. 390, assigned to Relief Company No. 3—was about the right age (34 years old) as the one A. J. Coffee mentioned (30 years in service).

The boiler banding, the gauge mounting, and some other clues suggest that wreck in the main photo may be a Amoskeag engine:


This image, dated April 20, 1906 and taken from a stereo view card, was titled A fire engine caught and crushed by a falling wall, Post St., San Francisco Disaster, U. S. A.


The spring like thing draped on the wheel is the wire reinforcement that was left after the rubber suction hose (seen in the drawing above) burned away.

This last photo shows recovery efforts with much of the rubble cleaned away and non-salvageable items removed from the remains of the engine:


Missing windows

Why did the windows fall out?

[The buildings were gutted by the fire; windows had wooden frames and burned. -tterrace]

Shreve Building still stands

Interesting piece here from the site - Shreve & Co., a high-end jeweler, just moved out in 2015, to be replacd by Harry Winston, another high-end jeweler. Shreve & Co. (now just down the block at 150 Post St.) moved into their namesake building in March of 1906 - yes, a month before the earthquake.

It's Kearny Street, not Kearney Street

Very common mistake.

Fire Fighting Equipment?

On the right side, it looks to me like a burned out piece of fire fighting equipment, maybe a towed pump on wheels?

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