SF 1906 Earthquake Cleanup and Dump Sites

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Hello All,

I wanted to ask a question about the clean up of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. How long did it take to clean up, where was all of the trash and debris dumped during the clean ups? Was there a common landfill used by San Francisco before 1906 or after 1906? Any information on this topic would be very helpful in my reasearch. Thanks for reading.

-- John McNally (strataman4@aol.com), October 07, 2004


There were many sites for collecting Earthquake debris. Rubble from the Mission District was carted to the area now covered by Cesar Chavez/Army and U S 101. This area was swamp land. Once all the earthquake fallout was dumped, the route toward the Bayshore was born.

Good luck in your research.

-- Kurt Iversen (iversenk@aol.com), October 08, 2004.

I have a similar question, but specific to the Marina. I've read in several places that '06 rubble was dumped in the "Harbor View" areato create space for the Panama Pacific Int'l Exposition. That doesn't make sense for two reasons: 1. The location for the Fair wasn't chosen until years after the rubble was disposed of, and: 2. How could all that fill have been hauled to Harbor View -- tracks weren't put down leading to that area until about 1913.

Am I missing something, or is this more City lore?

-- P.S. Perris (psperris@slip.net), October 09, 2004.

No significant amount of 1906 rubble was dumped in the Marina district. I debunked this urban myth in "What Lies Beneath the Marina?" in the Argonaut Vol. 14 No. 2. The Argonaut is the journal of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. The appendix to that article presenting a pictorial history of the Marina district will appear in Vol. 15 No. 1. The San Francisco History Center (6th floor, Main Library) subscribes to the Argonaut. A small amount of 1906 rubble may have been dumped in the Marina in the area between North Point and Beach streets between James Fair's seawall on the western side of Webster and the earthen mole belonging to San Francisco Gas & Electric Co., which was about half a block away between Webster and Buchanan. No more than 20,000 cubic yards of rubble would have been dumped there. This area would become a public dump.

1906 rubble was dumped south of Army along the north shore of Islais creek, but not enough to open up a route to the Bayshore. This claim can be verified by comparing the 1905 Coast chart for San Francisco with the 1911 Chevalier map of the city. These maps are both available online. Start at the UCB Earth Sciences web site and check out the David Rumsey (sp?) collection. Rubble from the Mission would hardly have made a dent in the tidelands of Islais creek. Nearly all the structures destroyed in the Mission were wood frame buildings. These structures burned to the ground and left very little behind. What could be salvaged from the ruins generally was. Thus whole bricks, pipes, sash weights, etc. weren't carted off to dumps. They were reused or sold to junkmen. Local foundries purchased scrap metal of all kinds. In the rush to rebuild (and the Mission along with North Beach was largely rebuilt within a year) ashes and the remains of plaster and mortar might be left alone within a foundation perimeter or just scraped to the back of a lot to become part of the earth. These are the basic reasons the Mission district was not a source of much 1906 rubble.

Most of the rubble dumped in the Islais creek basin was hauled from downtown in debris trains.

The city was pretty much cleared of rubble in a little over a year, although some rubble remained where it was for several years. The area between Civic Center and Nob Hill was not built up for a number of years (compare Sanborn maps for 1899 with those for 1913. One of George Lawrence's "captive airship" photographs taken in May 1908 shows a few ruined walls still standing in this area. Many ruined walls were demolished to the three or four foot level and left alone. The lots were often not even fenced. That's hard to imagine from the perspective of this litigious era.

There were at least 12 dump sites around town including the aforementioned Islais creek site. There were probably more. Individual contractors were very cagey about their dumps. Consequently, published reports don't mention them. Rubble was also dumped by barges and scows in the bay (although this practice was soon stopped by the Army Corps of Engineers) and in the vicinity of Mile Rock. Rubble may also have been barged to the south bay, but I've not been able to find any confirmation of this.

-- robert bardell (bbardell@pacbell.net), October 12, 2004.

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