Friday, April 18, 2008

The Great Earthquake of 1906

Today marks the 102nd anniversary of the great San Francisco Earthquake. The earthquake and subsequent fire devastated much of San Francisco and the damage was also extensive in Vallejo that day– although fortunately there was no loss of life here. The Vallejo Evening Chronicle for April 18, 1906 reported the following:

“The worst temblor ever experienced in our city occurred at 5:12 a.m., the shock lasting fifty seconds, being from west to east, and doing great damage to property. There was a second shock at 5:15 o’clock, but a mild one, lasting only two seconds. A third slight shock occurred at 8 o’clock. The shock was felt most severely and did the greater part of the damage on the elevated portions of the city, especially on York Street and upper Virginia Street. Residents were generally alarmed, and rushed from their homes in terror, parents carrying their little ones out of the swaying buildings. We give below a record, so far as yet learned, of the damage done.”

At Doyles’ Marble Works

“Doyle Bros’. marble works [at the corner of Florida Street and Sonoma Blvd.] suffered severe damage, many handsome monuments being broken, and the financial loss will be about $1,000.”

Vallejo Residences

“Chris Mangold’s residence on the corner of Virginia and Alameda Streets was badly damaged, a chimney falling on the roof and destroying a portion of it, part of the residence having to be rebuilt. On the other corners of the junction of the same streets, occupied by B.F. Griffin and Mrs. Donnelly chimneys fell but, falling outward, caused no damage to the dwellings. Chimneys fell at the residents on York Street of Messrs. Weniger, Casper, Kneass, Mrs. Diedrichson, Mrs. Holly, Mrs. E.V. Peary, Messrs. A. Alvord and W.A. Jones. George Weniger’s two chimneys fell and the walls of the residence were badly cracked, and some valuable vases in the parlor destroyed, the piano was moved by the shock two feet from the wall. Part of the cement walk in the yard is destroyed by the chimney falling.”

“At Mr. Casper’s residence the falling chimney struck the roof over the kitchen, forcing the rafters through the ceiling. Chimneys also fell at the residences of Messrs. Shortridge, Hussey, Cooper and two at Mr. Davidson’s residence. The chimney at J.H. Thoreson’s residence, corner of Sonoma and Georgia Streets, fell and damaged the roof. Three houses on Kentucky Street lost chimneys and the residence of Mrs. Holleran, corner of Ohio and Sonoma Streets, was damaged by a falling chimney. Charles Rule’s new residence on Capitol Street is badly damaged. Mr. Stiles’ home, 838 Kentucky Street, is very badly damaged inside. V.V. Harrier’s flats lost a chimney.”

“At the Orphans’ Home two chimneys fell, one coming through the porch. At the residence of Mrs. E.V. Peary, 714 York Street, there was a narrow escape from death. Mrs. Ballard, who is taking care of the house during the absence of Mrs. Peary, snatched her little girl and Mildred Peary up and went to the back door, and as they went out the chimney fell with a crash, the bricks falling within a few inches of Mrs. Ballard and the children. Many chimneys were twisted on their residences and the brick masons will have a harvest the next few weeks, the probable total amount of damage here amounting to about $500.”

On Mare Island

“The joiner shop was badly shaken up on the navy yard, and when the employees went to work this morning they were dismissed for the day, as a thorough survey of the buildings will be made. The boat shop was also badly shaken, and the employees were sent back. The big chimney on the foundry was twisted.”

“Many stores in the business portion [of Vallejo] had their contents thrown off the shelves, but the shock was not so much as on the elevated portions of the city. The Irvington and New Bernard Hotels, however, received a good shaking up.”


Sailors and Marines from Mare Island were quickly dispatched to aid the residents of San Francisco. The torpedo-boat destroyer USS Preble and the tugs Active, Leslie and Sotoyomo headed to San Francisco where their crews valiantly battled fires, rescued the injured, and attempted to keep order. Lieutenant Frederick Freeman later wrote an amazing eyewitness account of their efforts which can be read at the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco’s website at

By April 19th hundreds of refugees from San Francisco were arriving in Vallejo by ferry. The refugees were housed at the Naval YMCA on Santa Clara Street, at the old Pavilion at the corner of Georgia and Sutter Streets, and in a makeshift camp at City Park. The Vallejo newspaper continued with extensive coverage of the quake and its aftermath, including publishing lists of refugees who had relocated to Vallejo. Some of those displaced families, having lost their homes in San Francisco, remained in Vallejo and started new lives here.

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