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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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City Hall: 1906

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.

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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.

SHORPY OLD 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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