1906 San Francisco Fire and Earthquake to 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)

Four years after the Polk St. cut from Greenwich to Lombard decimated the property values of the Lombard ridge cottages to the east, a fire swept up the excavated cliff and destroyed homes at the rear and behind 1271 Lombard, as well as the home behind 1269 Lombard and the rear of 1265 Lombard. Ironically in 1906, when fire after the great earthquake destroyed almost the entire city to the south and east, the Block 501 neighbors of the Lombard ridge fought to save their buildings by dousing faggots from firestorm to the south with wet towels and blankets. This saved the ridge cottage roofs and wooden frames from igniting as the firestorm had spread block by block from the south and east. Consequently, the original 1265, 1261 and 1255-7 ridge cottages, dating from the 1870's exist today, albeit all but 1265 in somewhat altered form.

Not only was our Lombard Ridge on the front line of halting the fire as it swept over and through Russian Hill. The Van Ness and Polk corridors where Russian and Nob Hills end and Pacific Heights ridge begins became the fire block that wasn't breached before fire burned out on third day, except from Sutter to Clay where it burned a block west to Franklin and below Golden Gate. That Van Ness defense saved Pacific Heights and Western Addition and ensured that it would be quickly filled in during post fire building with elegant homes and neighborhoods.

 

1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Recovery and Rebuilding by 1909

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire is well documented in many books like Bronson's The Earth Shook, the Sky Burned and the American Experience documentary The Great San Francisco Earthquake at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/earthquake/index.html. Consequently, this note will be limited to a few images of before and after 1906 on Russian Hill-Lombard Ridge, Van Ness-Polk corridors and Pacific Heights Ridge, as well as Civic Center, Market St. and downtown.

1880 Market St. East ,.......................1883 Knight's Templar Parade Mkt 7th St.,.......................................................1890 Market E

1900 Market Post NW,..............................................1900 Market W 7th to City Hall,..................................................................1900 Mkt Drumm Davis MJB

Market 1890's Color: Call......................................................Chronicle.............................................Crocker........................................................Bancroft

1905 Chronicle Market E to Ferry........................................................................... 1906 Embarcadero Ferry Building L merged today R

1905 Fire: Bay E to Hill West.......................................................... Lafayette Park SE looking SE..........................................Embarcadero fire from E on Bay

1905 Flood Market E..............1906 Mkt W Call on fire....1906 Presidio Soldiers on Van Ness fighting fire....1897 New City Hall and Hall of Records rear

 

 

1900-1905 Union Square : Powell SW Post................Geary N Post, Temple 450 Sutter........................1905 Geary NW Stockton St. Francis................1900 Geary NW Powell Calvary Church

 

1906 Fire: Moving from South to Market St...East on Market from Call Building.......... California W ruins and ashes.............. Kearny S ruins and ashes

1906 Post Fire: Market St. Ruins SE from Nob Hill....................................................1906 Aerial Ruins Nob Hill SE from City Hall to Call-Chronicle

1906 Post Fire: Market Ferry W ruins, refugees exiting...........California St. E Grace (r), Old St. Mary's (l).....................Bush NW Sansome to Mills shell

1906 Post Fire: Nob Hill NW Broadway to Russian Hill top......... Old City Hall W Mechanics ruins.....................Van Ness SW Grove St. Ignatius Cathedral and School

After three days, the fires were extinguished, some say by a change in wind, others by the Van Ness firewall. About 3,000 were dead, many in Chinatown. In a city of 400,000, over 250,000 were refugees from burned out residences. The flight during the fire by water approached the magnitude of Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. About 2800 acres burned, resulting in $400 million in property loss, about $250 million of which was insured. Nearly all insured claims were paid, most fairly quickly. Relief funds, rations and supplies flowed in rapidly and generously, initially from West Coast and then back East.

Food was short at first. Men scavenged for canned goods in the debris. Drinking water was a precious commodity. But even before the fire had burned out, supplies began to flood the city. Military garrisons from Portland and Seattle sent 900,000 rations. A relief train arrived from Los Angeles. Hearst mobilized the resources of his newspapers and dispatched 12 trains from New York. Congress appropriated one million dollars. Pledges of money came from cities, town and organizations all over the country, $3 million of which was given to destitute refugees to get started again. Soup kitchens cropped up amid the ruins. And everyone waited in lines. Refugees lived in 11 tent camps and some in wood cabins in parks and public areas for months, living on makeshift soup kitchens. Camps had peak population of about 16,500 and most were gone by 1907. $10 million in relief funds was administered by former reform Mayor James Phelan as head of ongoing disaster recovery effort.

1906 Fire Lafayette Park SE Gough .... Lafayette Park refugee camp W Laguna Mansions..Refugee cabins $100, $2/mo...Fort Mason camp NW Bay

Even before the ashes cooled, determination to rebuild was virtually universal. When the fire had burned itself out, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, arrived in what was left of San Francisco and wrote: "The hills rolled to the seas as bare as when the pioneers landed in '49. But now they are a blackened waste. North to the bay, west to the Mission, nothing but ruins. The wholesale district is destroyed, the manufacturing district, the financial district, and the waterfront section -- all destroyed. I will not attempt any description of this scene; I do not believe that any words of mine could convey the slightest comprehension of the wreck and ruin." But Hearst then continued: "One must free the mind of the idea that there has been a fire in San Francisco and must realize that there had been a fire of San Francisco. The whole city has gone up in one mighty blaze. The calamity seems overwhelming and yet the people are not overwhelmed. Everything has been destroyed except that indomitable American pluck. In a month there will be the beginning of a new and splendid city. In three years it will be built and busy." It was.

Mayor Schmitz was initially hailed as a hero, but when he and other City officials resumed their graft, corruption, accepting brides and shoddy workmanship, which had been exposed by remains of City Hall, Phelan and Committee of civic leaders took control and Mayor, aides and most of Supervisors were indicted by end of 1906, with reformists Oder and Spreckels leading the prosecution.

The enormous task of clearing rubble began almost immediately after the fire ended. The cleanup work was staggering, as over 61 billion bricks had fallen during the earthquake and fire, 30 million of them in the ruined Palace Hotel. For a couple of weeks, able-bodied citizens were drafted into clearing rubble by gun-toting soldiers, but before the end of April, the pros took over, laid railroad tracks, brought in heavy equipment, and started hauling away what was left of the city that was. 11 million cubic yards of ruined brick and stone walls, twisted steel, and debris of all types were removed. Temporary railroad tracks were laid on key streets throughout the city to enable gondolas and ore carts to haul away the heavy chunks of stone, brick, and mortar that were being lifted from the wreckage by steam shovel and crane. Modern and ancient technology worked together in this engineering operation, as horses and wagons were also employed in the clearing of debris. Much of the rubble was deposited in Mission Bay at the foot of Townsend and King Streets, or was hauled away by barge outside the Golden Gate and dumped into the ocean. Black Point Cove was used as a dump for debris, but very little was dumped in the Marina mudflats or beyond.

Much of the work was done by horse power. The more than 15,000 horses worked to death in San Francisco in the months after the disaster. should be remembered as horses last heroic effort as integral part of city life. They would all be superseded by electric streetcars and motor vehicles as San Francisco was rebuilt. In the 1915 Sanborn maps which were updated through 1950's, the quaint indication by a cross in center of most blocks to indicate stables were gone.

By Sunday after the Wednesday earthquake, 300 plumbers were at work fixing the sewers and water pipes. By Tuesday 1,000 bricklayers were inspecting and repairing all chimneys which over coming months forced cooking to be done on curbsides before they stoves could be safely inside to safe chimneys. Within weeks, streetcars were running on Market Street, replacing the obsolete cable cars. The city had been divided by the cable tracks with a slot down the middle, and the working-class district was South of the Slot. Now, even the cable slot was torn up, replaced by electric trolleys.

The pace of reconstruction was generally not slowed by shortages of material or labor (there were some transportation bottlenecks).  With respect to materials, the 

straightforward market result obtained.   The question was not if materials would be available, but at what price?   Lumber prices increased the most of the building materials, roughly doubling in the first year of reconstruction, but falling after that.  Skilled construction trades were unionized and the availability and cost of these workers could have presented problems for the pace of redevelopment.   However, the building trade unions increased apprenticeship positions dramatically in the reconstruction period to meet labor demand.

The rapid pace and limited cost of the cleanup and rebuilding was remarkable. This was not only the result of the hard work and efforts of San Franciscans and others workers who rushed to fill plentiful reconstruction jobs. It was also facilitated by the financial community. Safes had to be carefully removed and left to cool for 7-10 days before risking vaporizing of all bills on contact with open air. The cost to insurance companies, mostly in other major cities of US and Europe was devastating to some of the 137 insurance and 17 reinsurance firms which faced claims. 20 paid all they could and went bankrupt.

The earthquake was the worst single incident for the insurance industry before the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the largest U.S. relief effort ever, including Hurricane Katrina. The insurance payments heavily affected the international financial system. Gold transfers from European insurance companies to policyholders in San Francisco led to a rise in interest rates, subsequently to a lack of available loans and finally to the Knickerbocker Trust Company crisis of October 1907, which led to the Panic of 1907.

What was built during the frantic race to recover was expedited by waived building permits for one story temporary wooden structures which sometimes became two  and three story in the disaster area.  The majority of the major retailers erected temporary structures without building permits or retail licenses.  And commercial and professional tenants were allowed to operate from private homes in residential districts.  Finally, Committee began debris removal immediately, with 7,500 men employed at this task by May. With public order established, property secured, the relief effort coordinated, debris removal under way, and building codes and zoning relaxed, the stage was set for market forces to restore  San Francisco.  The utility companies were privately owned and reacted quickly.  Water, gas, and electric services were restored within the first month after the disaster.  The reestablishment of the trolley service took the longest time, until the end of 1906.  Damage to the trolley tracks had been extensive.  

Some of the business was pretty shady, year after the quake, 300 saloons and dance halls had reopened on the ashes of the Barbary Coast near Pacific Avenue. Many wanted and expected Chinatown to be relocated. However, the Chinese were most industrious and often first out of camps and back to work. They rebuilt Chinatown exactly where it was in much stronger buildings despite little outside help and still facing blatant discrimination.

 

San Francisco had adopted the innovative Burnham Plan shown below in 1905. The costs, disruption to existing neighborhoods and street pattern and delays to rebuilding that would have been part of incorporating the Burnham plan on the now mostly vacant landscape were swept aside, with the exception of San Francisco Civic Center, which was rebuilt with much of Burnham's features.

1905 Burnham Plan for San Francisco...............................1904-15 Civic Center and City Hall move W........................ Burnham Grand Civic Center Plan

1906 Ruins and Clean up: Tracks Hayes E St. Ignatius ruins. .......Market ruins E Call..............................Ruins Market W from Ferry Embarcadero

On April 18, 1907, exactly a year after the earthquake, the Fairmont Hotel opened on Nob Hill with a lavish party. The hotel had been set to open in the spring of 1906, but the hotel and most of its furnishings burned on the second day of the fire. In October 1909, San Francisco threw a three-day party called the Portola Festival, to show off the new city. And why not? The city was practically brand new. After losing 28,000 buildings in 1906, over 20,000 new, bigger, more solidly constructed buildings had been erected in just three years.

1909 Portola Festival for Earthquake Recovery Festival: Invitation and Postcards

1909 Recovery: Mkt W ...........................Market NW.....................................................Aerial SW Nob Hill and Downtown............Mkt NW Phelan Powell

1909 Portola Festival for Earthquake Recovery Festival: Poem and Posters

1915 New Civic Center and Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)

James Rolph Jr., a Republican business tycoon who always wore cowboy boots and a carnation in his lapel, was elected mayor in 1911. A year later, the new City Hall, with a dome higher than the Capitol in Washington, was opened to great fanfare. About this time, the state and the city began to crack down on open vice, and the Barbary Coast was gradually shut down. Too much sin, it was felt, was also bad for business. And Civic Center saw the opening in 1915 of a grand Civic Auditorium on site of burned Mechanics Pavilion and a few years later a library and State Office building to complete the other sides of the Civic Center Plaza after City Hall moved two blocks west of its 1906 location.

1915 New San Francisco City Hall...................2000Aerial Civic Center with pre 1906 City Hall Location....1915 Civic Center Auditorium (Brooks, Graham)

1920's Van Ness E Civic Center Before Opera...........................................................................1960-90 Civic Center Hyde W Central Freeway

However, all this spectacular rebuilding of San Francisco, including the new Civic Center, was overshadowed by the last monumental event that formed and linked our Lombard and Pacific Heights Ridge destinies. That was the spectacular1915 Panama Pacific World Exposition. Just as the fire created Pacific Heights as wealth moved from Nob Hill to fill in Pacific Heights Ridge lots and around Lafayette and Alta Plaza Parks, the great fair created a dream world over the marshy north shore that helped transform dairies, gardens and nurseries of Cow Hollow to lovely residential areas and provide the footprint after the fair's conclusion for San Francisco's Marina district.

The California Midwinter International Exposition took place in Golden Gate Park in 1894 and drew over two million visitors. Chronicle publisher Michael de Young was head of California Exhibits at 1893 Chicago’s World's Columbian Exposition White City, a massive and influential fair celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Shortly after the opening of the Columbian exposition. He had the idea to relocate what he could to San Francisco for a follow-up fair. Suffering through an economic depression in 1893, de Young and fellow organizers hoped to harness and build on the excitement of the Columbian Exposition to create jobs, attract visitors, and highlight California’s financial, industrial, and mercantile opportunities. Civic pride was another motivation. The United States had begun to focus on colonial opportunities and conquest across the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco could use the exposition to shine as the country’s anointed “ Imperial City by the Western Sea.”

In June 1893, the Chronicle published de Young’s idea and reported over $40,000 had been pledged to a San Francisco fair and by August groundbreaking $350,000 had been raised. “Commercial World’s Fair” quickly gave way to “California Midwinter International Exposition,” a name that emphasized the state’s salubrious climate, so mild that a mostly outdoor fair could open while East Coast cities hunkered under January sleet and snow. Newspapers used more casual names to make the same point, including “ Sunset City".

1893-4 Golden Gate Park N Midwinter Fair, Richmond District......................................1894 Jan. Midwinter Fair NW Richmond, Presidio, Bay. Marin

The choice of Golden Gate Park for the fair site was met with strenuous objections from park superintendent John McLaren. After deYoung proposed the use of twenty, then sixty acres of park space for the exposition, the final footprint eventually ballooned to 160 acres in and around an area called Concert Valley, just east of the new Stow Lake. Grading of dunes in Golden Gate Park in 1893 led to groundbreaking dedication in August. The Fair opened five months later on January 27, 1894. In that time the site had been graded, fenced, and mostly landscaped. Water, sewage, rail and electric lines had been installed. Electricity was generated onsite by dynamos on display. A hundred new structures were erected, including fountains, amusement rides, and a 266' steel tower.

Michael M. O'Shaughnessy, who later served three decades as San Francisco’s chief engineer, created the fair’s landscape plan. He placed at its heart, between Golden Gate Park’s North and South Drives, an oval Grand Court of Honor, consisting of five large buildings dedicated to exposition administration, mechanical and liberal arts, fine arts, horticulture and agriculture, and manufacturing. Midwinter Fair architects were directed to have the Court of Honor reflect California’s history, or at least to suggest its pleasant climate. The result was a fantastic and exotic riot of colorful turrets, domes, minarets, and pyramids. While the White City projected order, planning, and restraint, an idealized vision of Ancient Greece or Rome, Sunset City was color, exuberance, and exoticism.

1894 Midwinter Fair: Manufacturer's Liberal Arts..........Ag Horticulture.................. Mechanical Arts (Academy Sciences)................ Tower Grand Court

The Court of Honor buildings encircled a sunken plaza with two fountains, along with the fair’s centerpiece, the Electric Tower. A third the height of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the Electric Tower had three different viewing levels, a café and at the top a searchlight so powerful one could reputedly read a newspaper at Third and Market Streets from its glow. The entire structure was strung with over three thousand incandescent light bulbs programmed to flash in alternating designs and patterns. Fair officially closed on July 4, 1894, having fulfilled almost all of de Young’s promises. Over 2 million attended and most found it dazzling and splendid. It turned a profit, created jobs, brought different and sometimes quarrelsome elements of the city together, and raised San Francisco’s profile nationally. Most of the structures were removed by 1896, but the Fine Arts Building remained as the Memorial Museum, later named the de Young. The Japanese Village stayed and was modified into the Japanese Tea Garden

The building of the Panama Canal in the beginning of the twentieth century meant expanded trade and less costly passage east for local goods shipped through San Francisco. In 1904, the San Francisco Merchants’ Exchange recalled the success of the 1894 Midwinter Fair in Golden Gate Park and proposed that San Francisco should host a world’s fair celebrating the opening. Our great quake and fire in 1906 put those plans on hold, but San Franciscans did not forget.

In October 1909, President William Taft announced January 1, 1915, as the date for the opening of the canal. The San Francisco Merchants’ Exchange met and by March 22, 1910, incorporated the Panama Pacific International Exposition Company. Local support quickly generated six million dollars in subscriptions to support the fair. Charles Moore, leader of the successful 1909 Portola Festival, assumed the role of President of the Exposition.

New Orleans countered San Francisco’s bid for the fair, but the State of California put up an additional five million dollars, paid for by a state tax. Requiring no Federal funding, Congress passed a hotly contested resolution authorizing the President to invite the world to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) at San Francisco in 1915. The fair would celebrate the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Balboa in 1513 and the planned completion of the Panama Canal in 1915. President Taft broke ground in Golden Gate Park in October 1911, proclaiming San Francisco as the “city that knows how.” The selected sites originally included Lincoln Park, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, and Harbor View. The architects, including famed locals Willis Polk, Bernard Maybeck, and George Kelham, decided that the exposition should consist of a contiguous grouping of the grounds and structures for both esthetic and attendance reasons. They chose the Harbor View mudflats, today’s Marina District, also incorporating a portion of the Presidio. The plans were complete by early 1912, and construction commenced. The goal was to create the finest fair ever.

 


1870 Larkin NW Greenwich Sand Ridge Mudflats.................Pacific Heights NE Bay.................... 1800+ Marina Shoreline, Fill, Seawall.....1906 Refugee Camp Divisadero W Crissy Presidio

The corps of architects selected a Beaux-Arts style for the exposition, a classic but eclectic European design with Spanish, Moorish, Greek, Roman, and Italian Renaissance influences. The designs focused on structure, color, and light. Columns, statuary, floral cornices, domes, and ornate entries and windows carried the theme. Imitation travertine made of cement and sand sufficed for the bulk. Work that was more intricate required a more malleable travertine, composed of gypsum, hemp fiber, and color pigments. The colors imitated fine marble—primarily ivory, accented by light earthy pastels.


1915 SF N Aerial Map PPIE ...........1915 PPIE Presidio NE Fairgrounds, Pacific Heights................PPIE Layout including Amusements E to Van Ness

The filling in of Washerwoman Cove kicked off development. Great hydraulic dredging machines pumped silt and sand from the bay, filling the area that lay behind the new breakwater. Liquefaction of that same silt during 1989’s Loma Prieta Earthquake resulted in severe damage to homes later built on those grounds. Trucking in enough topsoil to provide a three-foot cover, Golden Gate Park’s John McLaren led his landscaping team in greening the area. Foliage was a crucial part of the plan. An elaborate sewer and irrigation system kept bay salt from intruding. McLaren’s team planted more than 30,000 trees, acres of flowerbeds, and miles of hedges and lawns. They constructed thick hollow wooden walls with ice plants that covered the vertical surfaces like flowering carpets.

 

1915 Tower of Jewels Universe Court N Bay Harbor....................Court of Four Seasons...................................................Fountains and Tower of Jewels W


1915 PPIE: Crystal Palace....................................... Fountains Grand Court Horticulture.................................................West along Ave Palms


Eleven great palaces rose up under an army of skilled craftsmen. Eight of those made up the Central Palace Group called the Walled City. It was a design so cohesive the eight seemed to be one magnificent building intersected with walkways and courts, topped with the magnificent Tower of Jewels. A uniform color theme under the guidance of Jules Guerin created a study in natural tints, enforcing the sense of a grand design and providing a soft, glare-free façade.



1915 PPIE: Lincoln Beachley Fair Aviator, End of Trail Statue, Death in Bay in March

Lincoln Beachey, a native San Franciscan and contracted fair aviator, flew his plane through the unfinished Palace of Machinery, completing the world’s first indoor flight. He died in a performance held later, after the fair opened, failing to come out of a loop over the Bay.


1915 PPIE: Night Views including Opening Night Rainbow Lights

In a stunning lighting scheme designed by General Electric’s Walter D’Arcy Ryan, new indirect lighting lit up the grounds at night, unlike anything previously envisioned. Multicolored spotlights and flood lamps hidden from view cast a magical glow on the exposition, especially on the tower. A bank of colored spotlights with 2.6 billion candlepower lit up the fog in a lightshow of epic proportions. When the fog failed to materialize, a dedicated locomotive engine placed on the bay’s shore produced billows of steam that rose into the air to create the backdrop. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition on opening would become a wonderland at night.


1915 PPIE: Crowds Along Court of Palms N...... Tower of Jewels Liberal Arts (l), Manufacturers (r).... tower of Jewels N to Horticulture

The forty-three-story Tower of Jewels, encircled by fifty-four hidden search lamps, shimmered from the reflected light cast back by more than 100,000 multicolored glass jewels. The builders strung colored Austrian cut glass beads outlining the tower structures. Sensitive to the lightest breeze, a tiny mirror backed each jewel, reflecting the light back through its facets. Four hundred thirty-three feet from ground level, the tower stood as the dominant feature of the fair. At night, its illuminated, shimmering beauty drew the breath out of onlookers.

Pools, fountains, lawns, and beds of flowing plants completed the fantasy world of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. The grounds and halls were ready on schedule. The “city that knew how” had done it again. The world was at war, but San Francisco refused to accept that fact, preparing to celebrate her own rebirth and the opening of the canal.

San Franciscans bought 100,000 Opening Day badges at 50 cents each, pre-paid entry to the exposition. At six o’clock on the morning of February 20, 1915, those San Franciscans turned out to march down Van Ness Avenue to Fort Mason and the Main Gate of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, accompanied by bands and fluttering flags, intentionally making as great a noise as possible—no vehicles allowed. When the head of the procession reach the gates, the end still reached back two and a half miles. Newspapers claimed 150,000 marched that day.

At the end of the opening ceremony, President Woodrow Wilson keyed a signal from the White House to the wireless station in Arlington, Virginia, triggering the switches in San Francisco to light up the fair and start the machinery. He declared the Panama-Pacific International Exposition officially open.

1915 PPIE: Fairgrounds NW Presidio, Golden Gate, Marin Headlands....... Pacific Heights NE Fairgrounds Angel Is. Golden Gate
After having sailed through the Panama Canal, a great fleet of warships from many nations, including the United States Fleet and that of Japan, entered the un-bridged Golden Gate in tribute to the canal and the exposition. The city had never hosted so many warships, not even when the Great White Fleet sailed into the Bay in 1908. People arrived at the fair from the East Coast, sailing in comfort on giant cruise liners through the “Big Ditch.” No more slack-sailed voyages or wallowing steamers down and back up South America risking dangerous runs around the stormy Horn; the canal cut 8,000 treacherous miles off the trip.

When visitors reached the Main Entrance at the foot of Scott Street, the fair assaulted the senses in a most glorious way. The Tower of Jewels loomed ahead, the Novagems catching the sun, throwing back a fiery display. A three hundred-voice chorus sang Hail, California supported by an orchestra, John Philip Sousa’s Band, and a massive pipe organ, the sound and percussion carrying throughout while cooling breezes and the oft-present fog kept the temperatures comfortable.

 

1915 PPIE: Inside Inn N Palace Fine Arts........ Canada.................................................Southern Pacific............................................ Holland

Carefully tended gardens of green contrasted with the great ornate buildings in soft coordinated pastels. Water sprayed, splashed, and danced in fountains everywhere, the sound blending with the excited conversations and exclamations of the fair patrons. Aromas wafted on the light swirling breezes carrying the enticing scents of baking cakes and bread, mysterious dishes from the Orient, popping popcorn, fresh roasting peanuts, and hot buttered jelly scones, all mingled with the fresh smell of the sea from the Marina. Almost every nation represented offered tastes of traditional foods. The Food Products Palace encouraged bites of this and that. Concessionaires temped fair-goers with delicacies guaranteed to spoil dinner.


1915 PPIE: Posters (r,l) Amusement Zone middle

Children tugged parents toward The Joy Zone and its rides: the roller coaster, the miniature riding train, Boone’s Animal Show, and the Aeroscope, a double-decked cabin lifted two hundred fifty feet above the ground by a huge steel arm, swinging around in a great circle over The Zone. Parents tugged unwilling children toward the great halls and the Panama Canal, Yellowstone Park, and Grand Canyon exhibits. A day wasn’t long enough to see the entire exposition. The PPIE encompassed 636 acres. Lucky attendees stayed at the Inside Inn, a 610-room hotel built right on the grounds at the Baker Street Entrance. Providing all the modern conveniences, the hotel allowed patrons to spend their entire visit at the exposition.

1915 PPIE:Avenue of Palms W................................ Inside Inn N Palace Fine Arts..................................... Italy, Energy, Statue, Festival Hall


The fair closed on the night of December 4, 1915, after a magical ten-month run. Nearly nineteen million people attended the exposition in spite of the war in Europe. Even after covering the costs of building the Civic Center’s Exposition Auditorium, the backers realized over one million dollars in profits. It was a counterpoint to the World War in Europe, though the war outlasted the fair by three years. Immediately after its close, the exposition returned its treasures, and bulldozers began demolishing the buildings, exhibits, and gardens, finishing the task in 1917.

1915 PPIE: Fairgrounds Aerial SE Pacific Heights............... Palace of Fine Arts Today................................. Fairgrounds Aerial SE Pacific Heights

Just as the long run of the 1915 Fair was akin to Cinderella's magical night at the ball, it's December closing was somewhat like the midnight hour when Cinderella's charmed night was over. The Fair was the capstone to San Francisco's 'best of times, worst of times' years since it's Gold Rush era founding less than 75 years before. During those years, spurts of brilliant progress were tarred by blatant political and corporate corruption, all capped by the worst of racial discrimination. In the years since 1890's, reform attempts were associated with both Adolph Sutro and James Phelan, but it wasn't until the 1906 earthquake and fire exposed how extensive the corruption was that it was finally addressed. This led directly to the astonishing rebuilding of San Francisco in just three years after the fire, culminating in the October 1909 week long Portola Festival in October and the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair.

 

Ahead lay difficult years for San Francisco, as it faced the same challenges of War, domestic strife and depression until 1945, while enduring the loss of the West's leading city role to Los Angeles. However, at end 1915, no where was there a more stark Cinderella hour than on the fairground itself. The only one of those magical , but temporary buildings to remain was the exquisite Palace of Fine Arts. Just as with Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, it was a minor building that still stands resplendent in it's original setting as reminder of a great bygone era capped by 1893 Chicago's White City and 1915 San Francisco's Sunset City.

1917 Post PPIE: Aerial Palace Fine Arts W..............................Rising Sun Arch down........................................ Tower of Jewels down...................................Aerial Van Ness NW Fairgrounds GG

The Tower of Jewels and everything else came crashing down and the fairgrounds were returned to the mudflats of an earlier time, with the exception of landscaped grounds that now made them attractive for real estate development from which the charm of today's Marina district arose. In the 1930's the Marina seawalls and boat harbors were built by the WPA at the same time as they were leading in the construction of an Aquatic Waterfront Park on the east side of Fort Mason. By 1959 the Marina Safeway rose to erase the last vestiges of gashouse cove's sand fill for the 1915 fair. However, it was not until 1989 that we all became familiar with the liquefaction consequence that left the Marina as the most damaged section of San Francisco from the Loma Prieta earthquake.

 

1980+ Above San Francisco - Cameron: Marina NW Presidio Bay......................................................Presidio SE Pacific Heights Downtown

1980+ Above San Francisco - Cameron: Van Ness NW Bay Marina Presidio GG....................Palace Fine Arts WN Crissy GG Bridge Marin Headlands

Summary and Conclusion of Who and What Made Lombard and Pacific Heights Ridge Communities

To summarize these topics I associate with affecting our Lombard and Pacific Heights ridge neighborhoods, I think most of five great individuals, who illustrate the best of San Francisco as they lived through, led and helped improve life here from the Gold Rush through the 1915 Fair. Three are most associated with San Francisco's sweep west to the Ocean that culminated in the filling out of all residential areas north of Golden Gate Park. William Hammond Hall is mostly associated with Golden Gate Park. After Olmstead's triumph with NY Central Park, San Francisco commissioned him to produce a similar plan for Golden Gate Park. Olmstead concluded that windblown sand would never make a park possible on that windswept sand dune area, so instead submitted plans for a greenbelt to run from Aquatic Park along Van Ness to Duboce Park.

Wm. Hall Hammond 1846-1934. Golden Gate Park Aerial Ocean E........................John McClaren 1846-1943............McClaren Statue GG Park

 The brilliant young civil engineer Hammond won and submitted a plan for Golden Gate park in 1870. It was based on realization that if a wind block could be established on ridge above ocean, blowing sand would be thwarted and plantings could fill the park with its extraordinary lush vegetation of today. Eucalyptus was originally imported from Australia for railroad ties, but they were not effective. They did make great wind blocks in the Central Valley and Hammond believed they could do the same to supplement Monterey Cypress and Pine on Golden Gate Park's western ridge. The success of that innovative approach, combined with a vast aquifer which stretched south. That great aquifer has made Golden Gate Park nearly independent of City water supplies, and it is being looked to now as back-up for Hetch Hetchy. Before leaving as head of Park in 1876 Hammond selected and trained John McLaren, who presided as park superintendant for 53 years who's work included other emerging parks and the 1915 and 1939 Fairs.

1890 Sutro Geary RR.......894 Sutro Baths.....Adolph Sutro 1830-98.1907.................... Sutro Heights W Cliff House. 1902 Ocean N Cliff House.....1890 Land's End RR

The work of Hammond and McClaren combined with Adolph Sutro in opening up and populating the rest of San Francisco west to the ocean and south to Mount Sutro. Adolph Sutro made his fortune constructing a tunnel to drain water from Comstock lode mines and spent that fortune for San Francisco's betterment. He fought entrenched transport interests to build steam rail along north coast to Lands End and another along Geary, to his Cliff House, Sutro Heights and Sutro Baths. These provided affordable weekend outings for San Franciscans to both his seaside attractions and Golden Gate Park. Sutro was first of San Francisco reform mayors in 1890's before he died in 1898.

 

1890's Panorama Golden Gate Park Windmills N Richmond, Sutro Heights, Cliff House

After Golden Gate Park, Hammond was first State Engineer of California, developing a comprehensive water supply and flood control system for Sacramento Valley as well as extensive flow gauging system for California Rivers. This work would have placed him in related field to Henry Miller, just as his final work on designing systems to secure western Tuolumne watershed supplies for San Francisco would have tied him to James Phelan.

Most of these notes as they relate to Lombard and Pacific Heights ridges are compilations of a few highlights of the meticulous research of others, together with a few personal perspectives. So to conclude, I will add a couple personal perspectives to the last of the great San Francisco leaders in this summary: James Phelan and Henry Miller.

Phelan Home Lafayette N 2040 Washington.............................................James Phelan 1861-1930.......................Villa Montalvo Saratoga Phelan Home

James Phelan built a family fortune in investments and banking before becoming San Francisco's next reform Mayor after Adolph Sutro. His family continued in San Francisco finance and investments after his 1930 death and I recall working on a consulting project in 1970's for Tom Phelan, who was President of Pacific Stock Exchange. I came to learn about James Phelan during years when I was on Merola Board and we would take groups down to his Villa Montalvo home for summer opera performances. I would think of him as we gazed from front porch dinners out at luxuriantly landscaped hillside. But I came to know Phelan much better in recent years when Kevin Starr in one of his California history volumes indicated how much Phelan did for San Francisco in it's darkest hours of 1906 after earthquake and fire destroyed the City and exposed the web of political and other corruption. It was Phelan's appointment as head of Disaster relief that ensured that all funds and goods flowing in to help refugees and recovery got to their intended benefactors rather than political payoffs and bribes. As one of leading citizens he continued to give back to through the rest of his life, helping in the remarkable rebuilding, and then as a 1915 Fair proponent and US Senator. In 1910 Hiram Johnson was elected California governor and extended Phelan and other San Franciscan reform effort to all of California, particularly against Southern Pacific abuses.

1906 VanNess SW Grove St.Ignatius..1906 San Francisco Ruins Finest Ashes.1906 Lafayette Refugee Camp W Laguna..Cal NW Grant Old St. Mary's

Starr traced that pattern of philanthropy back to Phelan's days at St. Ignatius High School and marriage at Old St. Mary's. So I started a recent father's rehearsal dinner toast to two SI grads who were to be married in Old St. Mary's the next day with reference to Phelan. And I ended the toast with the wish that 'the always needed and magical good of giving back, associated with those long ago Old St. Mary’s newlyweds, will pass on to you tomorrow and through all your years.'

If it weren't for Stephen Birmingham's 1980 California Rich, I don't know how long it would have taken me to learn of Henry Miller. Many today might think first of Tropic of Cancer author, but when I read Birmingham's 'Miller had 14,500,000 acres and Southern Pacific had 16,387,000', I was astonished . With California totaling 101,563,523 acres, Miller and Southern Pacific owned about 30%. And their lands were almost all in habitable areas rather than the great majority of California, which is uninhabitable mountain wilderness or desert wasteland. Translated to today's land values, Henry Miller would have been and still would be, with possible exception of Ellison, California's richest individual ever. However, rather than continuing to appreciate, nearly all of Miller's holdings were dissipated through a half century of legal suits and estate fights after his 1916 death.

Henry Miller was a German butcher who immigrated to US and then came to California for Gold Rush. He worked in Los Angeles as a butcher and first saw the Central Valley where he would make his fortune as a sausage salesman. His landholdings were assembled through a range of innovative approaches and tricks. As he battled railroad to acquire lands, he also learned about water control and irrigation. He brought enough water to his lands to graze great herds of cattle and could travel from Mexico to Oregon without needing to stay overnight on lands other than his own. Ironically, his success in channeling enough water for his vast cattle herds, he sowed the seeds of doom for his cattle empire by demonstrating that water made the Central Valley much more valuable for agricultural products rather than cattle grazing. His water work would have led to familiarity with Hammonds water flow and flood control work , just as that would have been the progenitor of the great federal Central Valley water system of the 1930's based on Shasta and similar California water projects from the 1950's. I came to know of them through Marc Reissner's Cadillac Desert and later developed and taught water technology courses.

Henry Miller lived in one of the great mansions of Rincon Hill long after other wealth moved to Nob Hill and West. He fled his home during the 1906 fire, remembering to take the key for his return, but never did. An old man by then, Miller moved in with Nickels relatives in a grand home on west side of Lafayette Park. In 1910 he made his last visits to his Gilroy offices and ranches. He was a strong supporter of effort to win 1915 Fair and loved it both from frequent visits and looking down from his Lafayette Park home on it at end of each day.

1876-1906 Miller mansion Rincon Hill, now Infiniti...............Henry Miller Cattle King 1827-1916......1906 Lafayette camp W to Laguna mansions

As Edward Treadwell concluded in his 1931 Cattle King: 'As the great Exposition drew to a close and the lights went out, he sat in his wheel chair, still neatly dressed facing the window to the west and toward the setting sun. As he dozed, he saw spread before him the millions of acres he had acquired through California, Nevada and Oregon. He saw the hot plains, the green fields, and the thousands of miles of canals he had constructed. He saw the colonies and towns that had sprung up on the lands he had brought from aridity into production. He saw the cattle barons he had supplanted, the floods he had conquered, the droughts he had survived. He saw the banks, stores and lumberyards, scattered throughout his territory. He saw the oil derricks on his lands, and the pipelines carrying oil to his city. He saw the great levees, dams and reservoirs, which he had constructed to hold and control the forces of nature. He saw the alfalfa, rice and cotton, which he had introduced, on a large scale into the industries of his state. He saw his million head of livestock, the breeds of which he had developed and improved. But he saw no son to perpetuate his name and work. Finally he again saw the might herd of cattle slowly moving across the plains, and he smiled as he saw the fat on their sides, their white faces, the favorite color of their hides and the HH brand neatly placed on the left hip. He saw them gradually vanish over the distant horizon, and saw them swallowed in the rays of the setting sun. And on the 14 th day of October 1916, his soul too passed to the great beyond.'

Just as others of the events in these notes opened San Francisco for settlement, Henry Miller opened the vast agriculture of the Central Valley and beyond to settlement and production. He helped turn the use of water from the destruction of hydraulic mining to irrigation for the groves and fields. This day they supply nearly 25% of total food and more than 50% of fruits, nuts and vegetables of the entire US. And as Johnson broke the Southern Pacific power throughout California, Miller battled them over water use.

1965 Sutter NW Octavia Lodge Residence...............1975+ 1263-79 Lombard Ridge Compound..................1983+Broadway SW Octavia 1892 Hinkle Victorians

My first home in San Francisco was four blocks south of Lafayette Park in the Lodge Residence Club, which is now the Queen Anne Hotel. Since 1975 I have lived on our Lombard ridge home and since 1983 with our family on Octavia three blocks north of Lafayette Park. As I pass by Lafayette Park each day, I often wonder whether Henry Miller ever thought of Cow Hollow of an earlier era spread out below him as he looked down on 1915 Fair and how he built an inland empire through better use of land and water. And as I look up Washington along Lafayette to Phelan home, I am reminded of his efforts to give back to the City he loved, just as we all do today.


1980+ Above San Francisco, Cameron: Lafayette Park SW Gough Washington ..................... Lafayette Park N Sacramento Pacific Heights and Bay

1916 Panama Pacific International Exposition Panorama N from Pacific Heights to Fairgrounds - Bay - Marin