Photo: Róisín Darby
Last week I had to make a necessary journey to Cork. I took the opportunity to reconnect, socially distanced and outdoors with my Cork family. We went to Farran Wood. It doesn’t compare to Killarney National Park and one of their favourite activities, the zip line, was closed but it was lovely ro be outdoors and feeding ducks and deer again.
Sign in a hairdressers in Ballincollig, Co. Cork
Earthquakes and Fire in San Francisco in 1906- A Listowel Connection
Kerry Sentinel Saturday, 19 May, 1906
San Francisco LETTER FROM A KERRYMAN.
Mr Michael Davitt has received the following letter from Mr Richard C O’Connor, Manager of the Hibernian Bank, San Francisco, one of the best known and most respected Irishmen in that city. Mr O’Connor, who is a native of Listowel, Co Kerry, where many of his relatives still live, has always been a strenuous and generous supporter of the Irish cause:—
San Francisco, April 27th, 1906.
MY DEAR MR DAVITT,
San Francisco you know is practically gone. From Van Ness Avenue to the Bay, and out Market. Mission, and parallel streets to 20th street, is a heap of ruins; nothing left but a few broken walls that, like grim sentinels of the desert, look down upon nothing but desolation. A few buildings are left standing in this vast district, but their contents are destroyed, except the vaults Among those left standing are the Palace Hotel, the Crocker Buildings, across the street, and the Union Trust Building The Mutual Bank, the Call Building, the St Francis Hotel, the Flood Building, the Post Office, the Hibernian Bank were destroyed. Only the walls of this latter building stand, but the vaults are intact
It will give you an idea of the fierceness of the fire when I tell you that the granite broke and apparently melted in our bank. All the Catholic churches are destroyed except a few very few in the outlying districts. And so the great, rich, proud city of San Francisco, through whose ‘”Golden Gate” the commerce of America passed out to the awakening Orient, is nothing but a heap of broken brick and stone, and the richest city, perhaps, in the world, in proportion to its population, is now living on the charity of the rest of the United States. And it is only just to say that their generosity has amply provided everything necessary except shelter, and that is coming in fast, as tents are poured into the city from every direction.
All this ruin was the result of an earthquake lasting just 47 seconds; but those who lived through those few seconds will carry the memory of them with them to the end.
I had been awake, perhaps, a minute or two, when suddenly the house shook as if struck by some mighty force, and the timbers creaked as if they were being ground into pieces. I jumped out of bed with the exclamation : “May God Almighty have mercy on us and save us,” on my lips. I was thrown across the room, staggering like one intoxicated, but I kept my feet and reached the door, got to the room where my youngest daughter sleeps, and pulling her out of bed, as she seemed dazed, I shouted to run into the street before the house would crush us in its ruins.
I must have jumped downstairs in my wild terror, for the earthquake was growing in intensity, and I held the street door open. All around was the crash of falling chimneys, breaking windows, and the terrifying shrieks of the women and children. My eldest daughter was hysterical, and her husband and brothers stood by her to assure her. At last, with one fierce shake, the earthquake bade us good-bye, but left ruin in its path.
The Dominican Church in front of my house, two blocks away, was broken to pieces, the roof falling in, and large portions of the walls thrown into the street—the finest church in the State of California. Three blocks away, the Girls’ High School was a wreck, and here and there in my immediate neighbourhood several houses had tumbled against their neighbours, which fortunately prevented their collapsing. The Post Office built by the United States Government at a cost of over 2.000,000 dollars, was cracked and seamed, the immense blocks of granite, some of which weighed several tons, were broken apart as if they were straws, while the streets in front were torn and broken.
Stanford University, the most magnificent gift to educational purposes ever given by a private individual, was very badly damaged, and the school is closed. Berkeley University has suffered but very little, but there also a vacation has been declared until next August. The City Hall, that imposing mass of buildings, with its splendid dome, is a complete wreck. The steel structure of the dome, however, still stands, and the figure of Liberty perched on top still stands, a most imposing figure amid the ruins, one hand lifted high, looking now like an angel pointing to Heaven, as if saying: “Earth and its glories may perish but There is everlasting peace.” The splendid Public Library is gone. I have given you but a faint idea of the ruin wrought by the earthquake, indeed I would be unable under any circumstances to convey to you an adequate idea of its extent, but the real work of destruction began when the fire broke out, and not a drop of water to quench the thirst of the angry flames, as the great water mains leading to the city were mostly broken for miles, and, of course, the fire had its own sweet will. The most destructive fire began in the poorer section of the city, behind the Palace Hotel, where the workingmen were already beginning to get breakfast ready. Several blocks of wooden houses, hastily and imperfectly constructed in the ” early days” of San Francisco, were aflame and fiercely burning, the fire spreading with alarming rapidity. I was on the scene early, but even with my recollection of Chicago’s great fire of 1872, I did not dream that the flames would eat up every building counted ” fireproof” in the city. For three days the fire raged, nothing to stop it but the soldiers blowing up with dynamite whole blocks of buildings that lay in its path, in the vain hope to stop it.
You may remember Van Ness Avenue, a street about as wide us your O’Connell Street, running across the city from Market street to the Bay on the north. Along this avenue and the adjacent streets the wealthy people had their palatial homes. And here I based my hopes of stopping the fire. It crossed, however, in one spot for a block or two, but after a desperate fight was driven back, and the district of the city in which my house is situated, known as the Western Addition, was saved from the flames.
About 10 o’clock on the night of the third day’s fire a policeman, accompanied by a crier, drove swiftly through the streets announcing that the fire had been turned back, and there was now no danger of its advancing further. How welcome the news! How glad I was to learn that the house endeared to me by so many tender associations was spared you may imagine.
In the fierce fight to stem the advancing tide of flame, I cannot omit mentioning the heroic deed of a gallant son of Tipperary , the Rev Philip O’Ryan, The Cathedral, to which he is attached, stands facing Van Ness Avenue, on the western side, the golden cross surmounting the high tower glinting in the morning sunlight. The tower took fire, and the church was apparently doomed, And with it the entire Western Addition. This was the only part of the city supplied by water from a system independent of the rest of the city. father O Ryan trained in the athletics of the Gaelic Athletic Association, climbed up the tower inside, had a hose tied to the bell-rope which he hauled up and crawling out turned the hose on the burning tower, aided by Father Rouan ?, who shared his peril, succeeded in extinguishing the flames, despite the intense heat, which it seemed Impossible to with-stand.
Notwithstanding the ruin wrought; and the fortunes that were, lost, but one spirit seemed to pervade the people—gratitude that they had survived the fearful catastrophe and a determination to build up a more beautiful San Francisco on the ruins of the old. Already the work has begun, and hundreds of men are at work clearing away the debris. Our bank will be ready for business in about two weeks, and I very much mistake if the good old Hibernian, under its careful conservative management, does not rise again as it rose before in a time of great financial disaster, a bulwark against panic and despair. We have available in cash, and bonds which are readily convertible into cash, about 27,000,000 dollars in round numbers. So you see we have nothing to fear.
I will communicate with you from time to time about the trend of things here; in the meantime you need have no concern about the state of affairs.
With bent wishes for yourself, Mrs Davitt and family.—Believe me, yours very sincerely.
R C O’CONNOR.
I got your cablegram. Many thanks. Judge Tobin feels the disaster to the city very keenly. His nephews lost their splendid home on ” Nob Hill.”
The New Normal
I was in town on Saturday and I spotted men at work on this structure outside Allos in Church Street. Could it be an outdoor dining area?
I asked one of the workmen, the joker of the pack as it turned out.
“Hold on a minute and I’ll give you the first dance.” says he.
On Monday when I went to town, these cordoned off areas of roadway were all over town. The one outside Allos is the only one I saw with a platform. They are kind of lay-bys for pedestrian overtaking and queueing it would appear.
Social distancing gone mad?
Church Street definitely seems to have the biggest allocation of these. This one is just a skip and a jump from the one at Allos.
I’ll make enquiries as to what the meaning of this is.
You can see the one across the road is almost directly opposite.
This one is on William Street. It is right next to an area where you can step out or queue for Jumbos.