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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.

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


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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.

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