WNP297 - 1868 Earthquake
Woody: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, the podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Woody LaBounty.
David: And I'm David Gallagher.
Nicole: And I'm Nicole Meldahl.
David: Yeah! Hey Nicole!
Nicole: Hey guys!
Woody: I, are you all feeling rested and refreshed after our day off, our week off, of podcasting?
David: Oh yeah. Except I worked really hard today, so now I'm very tired.
Nicole: I am not refreshed.
Woody: You are not refreshed?
Nicole: I am not refreshed.
Woody: Oh, well.
Nicole: Bear with me, patient listeners.
David: Where, where was I, anyway?
Woody: You were in Italy.
David: That's right. And you know what they have in Italy?
Woody: Aren't you glad I'm here to tell you that?
David: Yeah. Do you, do you know what they have in Italy?
David: Yes. And they have volcanoes.
David: And they have, geo, geographical…
Woody: No, not geographical. Geological.
David: Geological movement! [00:01:00]
Woody: Yes. And that is, actually, a great segue, David, I couldn't have done one better. Because we have a guest today, we have our own Arnold Woods, a board member of Western Neighborhoods Project. And he is here, he is going to help us mark the anniversary of a major earthquake that happened 150 years ago tomorrow.
David: Wow. Hey Arnold!
Woody: So, Arnold, what is this? I guess 150 years ago would be 1868.
Arnold: That's correct. October 21st, 1868. The Big One occurred.
Woody: No, no, no. We all, we're San Franciscans. Well, David and I are and, and…
David: No, only you are.
Woody: Only I am, okay.
David: Only you were born in Santa Rosa!
Woody: Okay. None of us are San Franciscans. But we, people who live in San Francisco know that the Big One is the 1906 earthquake.
Arnold: But before that.
Woody: Before that.
Arnold: This was the Big One.
Woody: Okay, and what makes you an expert on this?
Arnold: Because I've done a little research recently in preparation for an upcoming event.
Woody: That's [00:02:00] exactly how we do the podcast every week. So, okay, let's talk about it. It's a serious subject. On October 21st, 1868, there was an earthquake, and it actually wasn't centered in San Francisco itself. Nicole, where was this earthquake centered?
Nicole: Correct. It was in the East Bay along the Hayward Fault line.
Woody: And, so Hayward, how come they call it like a San Francisco earthquake then if it was in Hayward?
Nicole: Because we're the most important city in the, in the Bay Area.
David: There really wasn't much over in Hayward at that time, right? I mean, there wasn't a whole lot of people living over there in the East Bay.
Woody: Yeah, I think it was like 500 people, roughly, living in Hayward at the time. And it, this, this quake, this fault line that runs along in the Hayward Fault goes through Hayward, San Leandro, goes all the way up into Berkeley. So, it affected all those areas, but they were sparsely populated compared to San Francisco, which was about 150,000 people. Right Arnold?
Arnold: Roughly about that at the [00:03:00] time.
Woody: Okay, so what did they call it? Did they call it “the Big One?”
Arnold: They, yeah, the Big One or the Great Earthquake.
Woody: Okay, the Great Earthquake.
Arnold: At that time.
Woody: Okay. So, yeah, go ahead David.
David: So, in the notes, I see it's a 6.8 earthquake.
Woody: Magnitude, yeah.
David: Magnitude earthquake. Did they even have a seismograph back then?
Woody: No. Actually, you know, it's very interesting how they, they go back and figure out how big earthquakes were. There's a whole field called paleoseismology.
Woody: Where they do, they go into trenches of the faults and they do carbon dating of organic material, and then figure out where it moved and when it moved over time. They go back millions of years to do earthquakes.
David: So, they can, so they can retroactively give the magnitude of the earthquake?
Woody: Yeah. It is still an estimate. And the other thing about earthquakes that, you know, they talk about these magnitudes, but there's other stuff too. Which is like shaking intensity. Like it's not only that it's a big earthquake, but that it's particularly [00:04:00] jittery, you might say. And the Hayward fault is really bad for that. Like if you, nowadays it would shake a lot.
Woody: So, it's very dangerous.
Woody: Anyway, going back to 1868 Arnold, what was the effect on San Francisco then?
Arnold: Well, yeah, the effects were different in, in different parts. Kind of leading up into this, there was two prior earthquakes on the San Andreas fault in 1838 and 1865, which the paleoseismologists, that you were talking about, believe created stress on the Hayward Fault, which eventually causes it to rupture in 1868. And, but because at the two prior earthquakes, they started instituting some building standards.
Arnold: And so, there were some buildings in San Francisco that were constructed better than other buildings. And, there was buildings where there was just cracks or windows that got blown out, cornices falling [00:05:00] off. Other buildings completely destroyed at the time.
Woody: Right. So, Nicole, what makes, do you know what makes a building earthquake resistant or not? Or what makes a good building or a bad building in earthquake?
Nicole: Well, not bricks.
Nicole: Bricks don't do very well.
Woody: Masonry, right?
Nicole: Masonry, yeah. It's interesting, I was reading up, I was reading like, 1868 Langley's Directory, and they were talking about how San Francisco had grown and how, you know, mostly what they had encountered before were fires. Fires were really prevalent.
Nicole: It's a lot of wood structures, which, you know, don't do so well in earthquakes either. But anyways, they were talking about how the new construction was going to hold up really, really well. We didn't have to worry anymore, because these things are totally not susceptible to fire. And this was like in April or July when they wrote this, and then…
David: That's interesting because early on in 1850, 1851, there were devastating fires, right? So, I guess then they said, “Well, we got to build [00:06:00] fireproof buildings out of bricks.”
Nicole: And I read a bunch of reports where the firewalls just fell over.
Woody: Right, in the earthquake?
Nicole: In the earthquake.
Woody: Yeah. The other thing that is very susceptible to earthquakes is when you have filled land. Which is a lot of downtown San Francisco, is they just, like, push sand into the shallows of the bay and then they built on top of it. And that shakes a lot. And even, we even have what's called “liquefaction,” which is when the earth, basically, turns almost to like a liquid, and it makes the whole building just kind of shimmy over.
David: Right, I mean, we see examples of that in 1906 with the Valencia Hotel. And even in 1989, in the Marina District, where whole buildings just kind of collapsed, like just kind of…
David: Sank a whole story or more.
Woody: Yeah. So, okay, so a lot of San Francisco was on made, you know this made land, this filled land. And that area did really poorly, I think. Then you add in masonry buildings and brick buildings, which [00:07:00] don't move with the land, with the earthquake. So, they're, they kind of like…
David: They don't flex.
Woody: They break. Yeah, they basically…
Woody: So, when we're talking about damage, Arnold, are we talking about hundreds of buildings, millions of people dead. What are we talking about?
Arnold: The net result of this earthquake was thirty people confirmed died, as of the, because of the earthquake. But probably hundreds of millions, or I'm sorry, hundreds of thousands…
Arnold: Of dollars worth of damage. Although that would probably be hundreds of millions in today's dollars.
Woody: Yeah. And then, like, we have some pictures, right? What kind of buildings, shots do we have of damage?
Arnold: There's the buildings around, what is it, the Sansome and…
Arnold: California Street area. We have pictures of buildings where they've, after the earthquake, they actually had [00:08:00] to put up these wooden struts to hold up the building from falling over. And, the deaths in San Francisco that occurred as a result of the earthquake were largely because of walls falling on top of people.
Woody: Right. And I think the pictures we have, and we probably have about ten or something…
Woody: On OpenSFHistory, that Carleton Watkins, famous photographer, and other people took at the time.
Woody: I think Oscar Foss, also. It's around Clay Street, there was a big, there was a little stretch of buildings that suffered pretty badly. And I know you mentioned California. And on Market and, like Front, big building, like a whole wall fell down,
Woody: I remember.
David: Well, I mean, as you were saying, that's all made land out there, right?
Woody: Yeah. Okay. So, what was the, what was the response to this? So, and again, we talked about the East Bay didn't have many people, but the, there were some big buildings that fell down in the East Bay, right?
Nicole: Yeah. So, San Leandro got hit really hard. And one of the photographs that we have on OpenSFHistory is of [00:09:00] the Estudillo House.
Woody: It's like an old, adobe house, right?
Nicole: And it's, I saw that all over the internet when I was looking around too. It's held at a lot of repositories here. And, this is actually one of my, I don't want to say, favorite stories out of the quake, because that's a little insensitive, but, it actually connects. There's a bridge to the 1906 earthquake. So, this, this homestead, or this, it was Rancho San Leandro, and it was owned by José Joaquín Estudillo, and his daughter married a man named William Heath Davis, who's one of these early capitalist types. Kind of, he was successful one minute and then he lost everything, and then was not successful. But he managed to win Maria's hand and…
Woody: He was, William Heath Davis is very famous.
Woody: Because he was like an early merchant, slash, trader in California before the American occupation.
Nicole: And so, he actually, he invested a lot in real estate, but then a couple times his burnings, [00:10:00] his buildings burned. Lots of fires in San Francisco. Anyways, that's the boring part. But so, he made fortune, he lost fortune. And then in 1868, the Estudillo Home is damaged significantly, and they decide to move to Oakland. And he starts collecting his stories and they sell really well. It's like, his stories of early California, essays and things like that. So, he thinks, “Okay, I'm going to write my memoirs.” And it's going to be a big one. And he, he's writing and writing and writing. He takes an office in downtown San Francisco, and he brings all of his things there. All of his papers, all of his memorabilia. And then, the 1906 earthquake hits.
Woody: And they all burned down.
Nicole: They went missing!
Woody: They went missing?
Nicole: They didn't burn! So, he couldn't get to his office because they had evacuated most of the downtown area. And once he got back there, his place didn't burn or fall down. But this giant manuscript that he [00:11:00] spent his entire life, basically, writing is gone. And he was completely, like, he just never recovered from that.
Woody: So, it can still turn up.
Nicole: It could.
Woody: It could turn up.
Nicole: It could totally turn up.
Woody: Okay. And then, also in San Leandro, as I remember, San Leandro was like the county seat for Alameda County at the time. And then it had a giant, like this sort of, classical colonial courthouse, right? That just totally collapsed, right?
Arnold: It was courthouse and jail.
Woody: And jail, uh-oh.
David: Oh no!
Arnold: And the, the second floor collapsed into the first floor. Many of the inmates who were in the jail at the time, lost their lives. I believe there's, San Leandro, was like, the most deaths of any of the local cities from this earthquake.
Woody: And that's why the county seat is now in Oakland, right? It actually moved after that courthouse fell down and San Leandro lost the, the sort of, center of the county. Okay, so how does the, how does San Francisco respond here? [00:12:00] I mean, was it, you said there was earthquakes in ‘65? Is everybody freaking out? Are the newspapers very, you know, sober? And is it giant headlines, “Earthquake!” or is it all pretty muted? Because we're looking at this 150 years later.
Woody: And we think it's a big deal. People don't even know about it now. Did they think it was a big deal?
Arnold: Well, it's interesting the contrast between 1865 and 1868. Because in 1865, the earthquake amounts to one-third of one column on the front page of The Chronicle, which was then called The Daily Dramatic Chronicle.
Arnold: And, but it's such flowery language…
Arnold: In the, in it. I'll just quote a little bit of it here, “The earthquake and the inhabitants thereof. A gigantic earthquake seized the earth and shook it as a big terrier worries a small rat.”
Woody: Oh yeah.
Arnold: “The earth shuttered as if in pain and window panes flew into fragments. [00:13:00] The shock was severely felt on Sacramento Street. And it was expected that the earth open up and swallow the Alta office.
Woody: That's a rival newspaper.
Arnold: A rival newspaper. “If it had, it would've thrown it up again in disgust as a most disagreeable alternative.”
Woody: Well, that is not a very, that's not a very serious look at the earthquake.
Woody: Were they better in ‘68? Did you look at all those papers?
Arnold: Yes. In 1868, The Chronicle headline, basically, was in most of the first page of what was then a four-page newspaper.
Arnold: They had just the big headline “Earthquake” and then seven sub-headlines about it being the severest ever felt. Several people killed. “A morning of horrors long to be remembered.” And then, basically, a one paragraph story about what had happened, and then six columns worth of just reports of damage around the city.
Woody: Right, right.
Arnold: And then for the next week, that was all, they [00:14:00] continued every day, having reports of the damage around the city.
Woody: You know, so, you guys, today, doing a show on this at our office, and we're looking at pictures, and I think what I don't think about, David, is that I think, when I heard about the 1868 earthquake originally, I'm like, “Well, San Francisco must not have been very big. I can't imagine it was a big deal.” But then we look at our old pictures.
Woody: There were some substantial buildings in San Francisco at the time.
David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it was past the Silver, the Silver Rush and that's what really built San Francisco in 1859. And so, from 1859 to 1868, there was considerable construction and growth in the city, I think.
David: It wasn't just the little tents that we hear about at the Gold Rush.
Woody: Right. And then there was, like, the old Custom House, I think, was damaged, which is another, like, kind of Greek revival building over there on Battery Street.
Woody: I think that was severely damaged.
Nicole: And there was tons of construction on California Street. There was [00:15:00] the Bank of California, right there on California and Sansome. And you can see this whole block is brand new. There's a photo we have on OpenSFHistory.
Woody: Yeah. So big buildings and, anyway, it gets through the earthquake. Are there any changes? Is there anything learned? What are the lessons here? Are they, is anything changed between 1868 and 1906, because of this earthquake that makes them, the city, better prepared?
Arnold: Well, I think they continued to create better building standards going from there. Although they did not, apparently, decide to stop building on landfill.
Woody: No. It's true. I mean, I've heard from, I used to work for earthquake engineers, and I heard that they actually did a pretty good job, they knew that the brick buildings did poorly, and the stone. And they did a better job of, like, doing interior framing, and tying floors together, and better brick work. And then they eventually had steel and iron frames.
Woody: And then when you get to the 1906 earthquake, those buildings actually do pretty well.
Woody: I think I, I heard from one engineer that all the buildings [00:16:00] built between 1868 and 1906 did great except for City Hall.
David: Oh, City Hall, right. Well, City Hall was, yeah, it had considerable problems getting built. I mean, it was under construction for like twenty-five years.
Woody: Yeah, there might have been some corruption about the building.
Nicole: A little bit.
David: But the part that was built earliest, the Hall of Records, that survived.
David: And they, in fact, the city tore that down in 1926 or something.
Woody: Crazy. So, did we learn that lesson? I mean, we could talk briefly about the 1906 earthquake, and the 1989 earthquake, which some of us were here for, in the same week. But have we learned anything since? Are we better? We're still making things on landfill, as the Millennium Tower is having some problems.
Woody: And, I think, is that Transbay Terminal having some problems?
Nicole: I think they just reopened that.
Woody: Oh, good.
Nicole: And that's steel. That's some, that's some other issues.
Woody: Okay, that’s some other issues.
David: But I mean, just think about it, if these buildings [00:17:00] fall down, I mean, they're ten and twenty times the size of the buildings that were built in 1906 or certainly 1868. I mean, I just think about if, if one of those giant buildings fell down: you would have five stories of rubble in the street.
David: You wouldn't even be able to move anywhere.
Woody: Right. And we should mention though, the biggest problem with earthquakes is usually not the earthquake. It's usually fire and other issues after. But the Hayward Fault has a hundred times more people living on it, on the fault itself.
Woody: Than it did in 1868. It goes right underneath the, like you said, the Cal Berkeley stadium. You were telling me on the way here.
David: Let's hope it's not on a Saturday.
Woody: Yeah. And, also, it's not like it's not going to happen.
Arnold: Yeah, there's the thing, because they've, when the [00:18:00] paleoseismologists have gone back and looked over time, I think they've calculated that major earthquakes on the Hayward Fault occur about every 130 some odd years. And we're now, because we're talking about this, 150 years since the last big earthquake on the Hayward Fault. So, it's overdue at this point.
Woody: Yeah, and it will happen. It's one of those faults that actually is always moving. They have these, like, little street curbs that move like a fifth of an inch every year.
Woody: Offset each other. Right? You can see where the Hayward fault is. And then when the big, when they have the earth, what we call an earthquake, it's a big slip. But it's going to happen any day. It could happen right now! It totally could. So, if there's anything we could do to prepare, I do want to tell people: there's a good website called “earthquakecountry.org.” Earthquake country. And they have guides on what to do in your house, how to try to be better prepared for earthquakes. Whether it's doing things to your house or just being prepared to… [00:19:00]
David: With supplies.
David: And that sort of thing. And knowing what to do.
Woody: Yeah, and I always think we're kind of lucky in San Francisco because we have two big earthquakes, well now three, six months apart. So, it's a good amount of time to like recheck your batteries and your smoke alarms and check your kits. You know, we have the April earthquake and the October earthquakes.
Arnold: Yeah. As we were discussing earlier, the 1865 earthquake, the 1868 earthquake, and the 1989 earthquake, all in October. So here we are in the middle of October. Be prepared.
Woody: Yes. Well, thank you, Arnold for coming and being our guest.
Woody: And for doing all that research. I think it's, it's a good anniversary. I mean, it's not West side, but it's a big thing.
Arnold: There were on the West side, not big things, but we did have reports at, I believe it was Lone Mountain Cemetery, some damage there. The patrons at the Cliff House noted that the waves went up about fifteen, twenty feet higher than they [00:20:00] were, up higher up the shore.
Woody: The cliff, yeah.
Arnold: Than they usually did.
David: A mini tsunami.
Woody: Yeah. But the Cliff House did okay, I think. I think it survived okay. All right, thank you Arnold. And now it's time for listener mail. Nicole?
Woody: First of all, how can people contact us for listener mail?
Nicole: Oh, well it's super easy. Just go to the website and, oh wait, no, you don't go to the website. Well can go to the website too.
Nicole: But you can just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woody: And did we get any mail from anybody?
Nicole: We did.
Woody: Who’d we get a mail from?
Nicole: Christina wrote in, and she said, “Hello. I'm a third-grade teacher in San Francisco and I've been listening to your podcast for a couple months now.” She loves it! Thank you, Christina. “And would like to figure out a way of incorporating the historic facts into the curriculum at her school. She'll eventually have students listen to some of the podcasts but would love if we were available to come into the third-grade class.” [00:21:00] She's got about forty-four students. “To help students explore different ways to collect historical information.”
Woody: So, you're going to do that?
Nicole: Ah, what? Me!?
David: You know, that's been something that I've thought we should do for a long time, is try to figure out a way to connect with the school kids.
David: Because that's, that's how you create future historians.
Nicole: That's true.
David: From people who, pay attention to the way things were and understand how they informed the way things are.
Woody: Well, okay. I think you and Nicole will do an excellent job with those school kids.
Nicole: Oh boy. I think that if there's anybody who has a teaching background who would like to volunteer for us, and…
Woody: There you go.
Nicole: And lead this charge. I think that would be even better, to have a trained professional teach kids history.
David: We do have an elementary school right around the block from us now. So…
Woody: That's true. I do think that a key thing to remember, is that there are kids listening to our podcast.
Woody: In classrooms. So…
David: Well, we've stopped talking [00:22:00] about breaking beer bottles.
Woody: Yes, that's probably good. All right, thank you, Christina. And thank you, Nicole. If you want to write in, please do so, email@example.com. Review us on iTunes.
David: If you're listening on the website, you can just click the button there and send in the form with your comments.
Woody: Yeah. And now it's time for events. David?
David: Yes, Woody, we have an event coming up next Thursday.
Woody: This Thursday.
David: This Thursday, October 25th. It's going to be “Westside Movie Theaters” at 7:00 PM at our Balboa Street location. The home for history, as Woody likes to call it.
David: You know what? A hundred years ago the Coliseum opened on Clement Street. By the dawn of World War II, Richmond District alone had five neighborhood theaters.
Woody: I went to all of them. I visited all those theaters.
David: I think I went to all of the theaters.
Nicole: How many are still there?
David: Some of them are still there. [00:23:00]
Woody: There’s two.
Woody: There's two still there.
David: Anyway, on this Thursday night, you can join us for an evening of historical images, music, ephemera, and memories of the West side neighborhood theaters from Geary, to Irving, to Taraval, to Stonestown.
Woody: Yeah, we're going to hit them all. And we're going to have special guests, Jack Tillmany and Gary Parks, who are movie historians.
David: That's a big deal to have them there.
Woody: And Gary's going to bring some artifacts from the old Coliseum Theater on Clement Street with him.
David: Oh, no kidding?
Woody: Not only that: I think Jack is going to bring little movie tickets to hand out to everybody.
David: Oh yeah. Jack is an amazing character and if you have never been in his presence, you owe it to yourself to make it to this event.
Woody: Yeah. David, I also want to say that might sell out, so you better buy your tickets quick. But the good news is we're going to replay the show, although we won't have Jack and Gary, but we're going to replay the show on Saturday morning, November 3rd.
Woody: So, buy your tickets for that if you can't come on Thursday.
David: Will there be popcorn? [00:24:00]
Woody: Oh, that's a good idea.
David: Will we have...
David: Will we have things to win?
David: Will we give away any dishes?
Woody: You're really kind of not selling this.
David: We don't need any of that, because it's going to be a fun, fun night and morning.
Woody: Okay. What else you got?
David: November 1st. That's Thursday…
David: Afternoon at 3:00 PM, we're going to reprise our Washington High School member tour. And so, Washington High School, as you know, has all these murals inside and we are lucky enough to have Richard Rothman, Western Neighborhoods Project member and mural expert, leading this tour.
Woody: Yeah, only for members though. You have to sign up.
David: It’s only for Western Neighborhoods Project members, and it's 3:00 in the afternoon on a weekday after school. There's just twenty spots available. This thing, last time, we had a great time, it's, it filled up almost instantly.
Woody: Yeah. And on November 10th, we're having another [00:25:00] member walk for Western Neighborhoods Project members only, of Merced Manor. And this is on a Saturday, 11:00 AM, November 10th. I will lead a walking tour of Merced Manor.
David: You, the great Woody LaBounty, will be expounding on Merced Manor?
Woody: That's right.
Woody: And we'll be walking, so that'll be good. And if you don't know what Merced Manor is, we did a podcast on it.
Woody: But anyway, go to the website you can sign up, if you're a member. And lastly, we're going to have an open house holiday mingle for members, when Nicole?
Nicole: December 1st!
Woody: Which is a Saturday.
Nicole: It is.
Woody: 11:00 to 2:00. We just want to invite people to come. Have some holiday cheer and meet other members and meet David Gallagher.
David: Yes, and I'll have headshots available for a small donation.
Woody: Okay, good. Anyway, go to…
David: Hey, my headshot has hair in it, so that's…
David: It's a collector's item.
Woody: Oh, oh, you have hair you mean.
David: In the picture, not on the, not in the, wait, I wonder if I could? We might [00:26:00] even apply some actual hair to it.
David: That sounds terrible.
Woody: Go read more. Now, David.
David: Why do you let me talk on this?
Woody: You're right, never mind. Nicole?
Woody: What else can somebody do on that website outsidelands.org?
Nicole: Oh, they can become a member.
Woody: And that's a, that could be, a tax-deductible donation. You get a magazine, you get to go to these events, like these walks and stuff. It's totally worth it.
Nicole: It's totally worth it. Plus, it helps support our OpenSFHistory effort, which, you know, we're busy, busy, busy, scanning, scanning, scanning, and every little cent counts.
Woody: Yeah. So, you just go and click, clickety, clickety, clack the member link.
Nicole: Clickety, click, click, clickety, kickety, kickety.
David: That's right, right at the top.
David: You only need, you click it once, but you can make any sound or vocalize in any way.
David: When you're clicking that.
Woody: Yeah. It's the cat's pajamas.
Nicole: It is. Also, thank you to whoever joined as a member recently and specifically cited my catchphrase.
Woody: Yeah, even though I just stole it. Okay, we have a preview for next week. We're going to do a [00:27:00] bit of hacking! And this has nothing to do with coughing or illness or anything. It's something else.
David: I'll try to restrain myself.
Woody: Hacking, hacking. I'll see you next week guys.
David: Okay, byeee!
Woody: Thanks, Arnold.
Woody: Goodbye Arnold!
Ian: Outside Lands, San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley, content creation and media production at ihadley.com
Woody: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more about San Francisco history, go to outsidelands.org.