San Francisco's Market Street Before and After the 1906 Earthquake
Joseph, Earle, Harry, and Herbert Miles filmed this footage of Market Street four days before the 1906 earthquake. The film is shot from a streetcar and starts at 8th and Market, travelling Northeast to The Embarcadero along the water. Recently, an anonymous user took the 1906 footage and added sound effects such as trolley bells and street sounds to enhance the video. The first video is that enhanced version (please remember that this footage was recorded in the era of silent films, so the audio you are hearing is a modern reconstruction). The second video includes footage of Market Street and other places throughout the city shortly after the earthquake and fires. Notice the complete destruction along parts of Market Street and the bread lines.
Backstory and Context
Market Street cuts right through the center of San Francisco and stretches out for three miles from the hills of Twin Peaks to the waterfront. The road was originally laid out by civil engineer Jasper O'Farrell and was established as the widest street in the city, with 37m (120 feet) between property lines. The first horsecar powered railway line in San Francisco was created by Market Street Railroad Company on July 4, 1860 and ran through the center of Market Street.
On April 16, 1906, Northern California was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8. San Francisco was hit hard, and devastating fires broke out across the city, lasting several days. After days of turmoil, over 3,000 people had died and over 80% of the entire city had been destroyed. This natural disaster wass one of the worst in United States history and still remains as the greatest death toll from a natural disaster in the history of California.
The earthquake caused over $400 million of damage, the equivalent to $10 billion today. Initially the extent of the damage was downplayed as politicians and business owners feared losing much needed investment in the city. The governor of California, George Pardee, said, "This is not the first time that San Francisco has been destroyed by fire, I have not the slightest doubt that the City by the Golden Gate will be speedily rebuilt, and will, almost before we know it, resume her former great activity".
The governor made true on his promise and reconstruction plans were created immediately. The rebuilding process hit a snag almost straight away as all of the major banks suffered from extensive fires. This meant that the funds could not be accessed for at least a week as the safes had to cool down in order to be opened safely.
While there were plans to redesign the street layout of the city, the original grid was ultimately restored. Some changes were implemented however, including the building of the new civic center complex, widening of roads, and the construction of the Market street subway. The reconstruction of the city was celebrated at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, with the majority of the city having been reconstructed.
Market Street - San Francisco 1906 - After the Earthquake - DashCam View - Silent. YouTube. November 23, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-rP7pRPSDI.