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City Hall: 1906

San Francisco, April 1906. "Tower of City Hall after earthquake and fire." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

San Francisco, April 1906. "Tower of City Hall after earthquake and fire." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Not shoddy

Unreinforced masonry doesn't stand a chance in an earthquake. This photo reveals in a unique way (at least I've never seen it before) what has been learned in the century since. The steel structure appears to be undamaged. For all I know there is some damage that is not readily apparent. Yet the surviving cross-section of the brick wall is quite thick, and has few structural ties to the steel. There are two separate structures here.

A modern building might have a single thickness of brick, with multiple ties to the steel. An old building in that era would have little or no steel to begin with, and even thicker brick. I would also say that this building seems to have escaped the fire. No steel members are sagging due to heat damage, and I don't see smoke stains.

Note To Self

When rebuilding San Francisco after a bigass earthquake, do NOT make buildings from bricks. Or on top of sand. Or on top of "land" made from the rubble of previous earthquakes.


All that remains anyway: the head of the Goddess of Progress statue on the dome of the old City Hall, saved when the ruin itself was finally pulled down in 1909. It's now on display in the new City Hall, just off the rotunda. In fact, here I am with it in April 2007.


Amazing to me that the dome is still intact given all the damage underneath.

I don't think this damage is a result of "shoddy construction." You have to consider the technology of the era.

[I'd say that most of this damage could be attributed to big earthquake + big fire. - Dave]

You CAN fight City Hall

Looks like City Hall lost.

I wonder

if the statue on the top of the dome was saved.

New City Hall

The new City Hall is an entirely new building constructed on a different site nearby; what was left of the old one was completely demolished.

Go Giants!

Is Shorpy a disgruntled Phillies fan?

This Is

One of those pictures. No words required!

Down they came

Great photo. I understand this and many other photos like it mostly displayed the result of shoddy construction and substandard materials done in that city under public works contracts.

Before and After

The San Francisco City Hall before the earthquake, and after being rebuilt.

Nevertheless . . .

San Francisco 11, Texas 7.

What a Mess

If this isn't an object lesson in bigger isn't necessarily better,
I don't know what is.

Doubly Domed

You can see the old city dome under the structure of the new dome that was built to give city hall more height ... and it looks amazingly intact.

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