OpenSFHistory Top Ten: 1906 Earthquake Refugee Camps

by Arnold Woods

Today is the 115th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco. In the aftermath of the quake, several hundred thousand people found themselves homeless. To deal with this situation, refugee camps were erected in parks and open spaces around the City. This week’s Outside Lands Podcast provides details of the refugee camps in Golden Gate Park, so we’re taking an OpenSFHistory top ten look at other refugee camps.
 

Harbor View refugee camp by Fort Mason, 1906.Harbor View refugee camp by Fort Mason, 1906. (wnp27.0088; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

In between Fort Mason and the Presidio was a large flat area that would later become part of the Marina District. Army tents, previously used to house soldiers arriving in San Francisco before being shipped out to war in the Philippines, were set up to house the earthquake homeless. This was one of the largest refugee camps to arise. A short distance away in Lobos Square–today’s Moscone Playground area–another Army camp for refugees was set up.
 

View southeast from Fort Mason toward Russian Hill and refugee camp, 1906.View southeast from Fort Mason toward Russian Hill and refugee camp, 1906. (wnp37.04358; Bushnell, photographer – Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

On the other side of Fort Mason, things were not as organized. Between the fort and Russian Hill, earthquake survivors began camping out in the low-lying, largely sandy grounds. You don’t see the Army-precision rows of tents here as there were to the west of the fort. The survivors were simply trying to make do as best they could under the extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
 

View east from Mint Hill at small refugee camp by Hermann, Laguna, Market intersection, 1906.View east from Mint Hill at small refugee camp by Hermann, Laguna, Market intersection, 1906. (wnp15.970.jpg; J.B. Moller, photographer / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

At the bottom of Mint Hill, a refugee camp sprang up just on the edge of the destruction. This is also a less organized camp with assorted tents and quickly built shacks to shelter folks. From here you can see the swath of destruction, including the remains of the original City Hall. In the distance at the center of the image, you can see Nob Hill where the Flood Mansion, the only mansion in that area to survive the earthquake and fire, and the then almost complete Fairmont Hotel stand. The Fairmont suffered much interior damage, but the outer structure survived.
 

Duboce Park refugee camp with Buena Vista Park in background, 1906.Duboce Park refugee camp with Buena Vista Park in background, 1906. (wnp27.1921; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

To the west of Mint Hill, another refugee camp arose in Duboce Park. A little over 20 years later, one end of the Sunset Tunnel would begin here, but in 1906, Army tents filled the park. Besides housing, the refugee camps had to provide food and latrines. Here, a boy, with a woman behind him, approaches one of the outhouses constructed for use by the refugees. Given a lack of space, these outhouses were placed close to the living area. Likely, the smell was not pleasant there.
 

Looking north from Hayes at Alamo Square refugee camp, 1906.Looking north from Hayes at Alamo Square refugee camp, 1906. (wnp27.1917; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

With so many displaced people, San Francisco had to make use of all available green space, including parks with hills. Over in Alamo Square, they solved the angled ground problem by essentially building an undercarriage for the tents to keep them level.
 

San Francisco Hall of Justice in ruins by Portsmouth Square refugee camp, 1906.San Francisco Hall of Justice in ruins by Portsmouth Square refugee camp, 1906. (wnp27.0626; Turrill & Miller, photographer / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Portsmouth Square was the original center of the San Francisco. Literally, the city’s boundaries at the time of its 1850 incorporation were defined as the waterfront to the north and east, and two miles to the south and a mile and half west of Portsmouth Square. Of course, this put Portsmouth Square in the middle of the conflagration that burned the City after the earthquake, taking out, among thousands of other buildings, the Hall of Justice seen here. Although the fire took out the buildings around the park, Portsmouth Square escaped largely unscathed. So after the fire was put out, Army tents for refugees went up.
 

Two women and group of children posed in front of [likely] school in Jefferson Square refugee camp, circa 1906.Two women and group of children posed in front of [likely] school in Jefferson Square refugee camp, circa 1906. (wnp37.10091; Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Able-bodied men who no longer had jobs were often conscripted to perform manual labor cleaning up the rubble. Back in the camps, women were cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children, hard jobs made even harder by the circumstances. In some camps, women set up schools for the children. In Jefferson Square, this appears to be a ramshackle, one-room schoolhouse, probably built quickly. The children appear to be a variety of ages and the schoolhouse too small for the entire group, so perhaps different ages used the school at different times.
 

View northwest at Lafayette Park refugee camp, 1906.View northwest at Lafayette Park refugee camp, 1906. (wnp27.6976; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Lafayette Park lay just to the west of destruction zone. Thus, the Irwin Mansion, seen here at right, and the other houses around the park survived the fire. Inside the park, another makeshift refugee camp settled in with a variety of tent sizes and styles.
 

View southeast toward Dogpatch refugee camp, 1906.View southeast toward Dogpatch refugee camp, 1906. (wnp27.7824.jpg; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

The southeastern part of the City was then, and is now, largely an industrial area. Piers, the Santa Fe Railroad yard and the Spreckels Sugar factory could all be found in the area. Irish Hill and Minnesota Street sprouted small homes and cottages for the local workers. After the earthquake, a camp was set up in the Dogpatch neighborhood. Today, Interstate 280 runs right through this area.
 

Looking north along Embarcadero at refugees camped near Ferry Building, April 1906.Looking north along Embarcadero at refugees camped near Ferry Building, April 1906. (wnp70.0513.jpg; Clinton Johnson, photographer – Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Thanks to the swift work of Navy fireboats, San Francisco’s eastern waterfront was largely saved from fire damage. Here you see the newly homeless taking advantage of the safe zone near the Ferry Building. They’ve brought tents, mattresses, trunks, and other personal possessions with them. Behind them, smoke from the fires is thick in the air.

If you listen to the Podcast mentioned above, you will learn that Golden Gate Park had three refugee camps as well. We have over 200 refugee camp images on OpenSFHistory from around the City if you wish to see more.
 

Murphy Windmill: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

At the western corners of Golden Gate Park sit two windmills that rise above the trees and greet the winds off the ocean. In the northwest corner is the Dutch or North Windmill, which was the first one built in 1902. It was so well-received that the City began plans for a second windmill. That second windmill would be placed in the southwest corner of the Park and would be called the South or Murphy Windmill.
 

Murphy Windmill under construction, circa 1907.Murphy Windmill under construction, circa 1907. (wnp27.1931; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The purpose of building the windmills in the park was to power pumps to draw water from an underground aquifer. The water would be stored in man-made lakes and used to irrigate Golden Gate Park. Before the windmills, San Francisco was forced to spend a lot of money to buy water from the Spring Valley Water Company for use in the Park. With the success of the Dutch Windmill, the desire for a second windmill was strong if the money for it could be found. Fortunately, a civic-minded person came to the rescue. Samuel G. Murphy, the president of First National Bank, came forward with a $20,000 donation toward construction of the windmill on May 24, 1905.1
 

Murphy Windmill and streetcar on overpass above [then] South Drive, 1908.Murphy Windmill and streetcar on overpass above [then] South Drive, 1908. (wnp14.4288; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

With money to build it, planning began. After a bidding process, a bid by the George E. Dow Pumping Company to install the pump system at the windmill was accepted in September 1906.2 To hold the water that would be pumped by the new windmill, the Park Commission in January 1907 also ordered the construction of a new lake to be built along Middle Drive.3 That lake would eventually be named for W.H. Metson, then the president of the Park Commission.
 

Murphy Windmill and keeper's house, June 21, 1912.Murphy Windmill and keeper’s house, June 21, 1912. (wnp36.00189; DPW Horace Chaffee, photographer – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

For the construction of the windmill, W.J. Dingee, a former Park Commissioner, donated 1500 tons of concrete.4 The copper for the dome on the windmill was donated by Louis Sloss.5 Wendling Cross Lumber donated lumber for the project.6 Because of his $20,000 donation, the Park Commission decided on June 7, 1907 to name the new windmill for Samuel Murphy.7
 

Murphy Windmill, circa 1915.Murphy Windmill, circa 1915. (wnp15.1541; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The construction of the Murphy Windmill was completed in 1907, but a dedication ceremony did not take place until Saturday, April 11, 1908. Mayor Edward Taylor and Park Superintendent John McLaren were on hand to preside over the ceremony to starts the blades on the windmill. The placement of the windmills at the west end of the Park ensured a fairly steady supply of wind for their sails. The Murphy Windmill’s blades were 114 feet long, the longest in the world. McLaren stated that the average wind during the summer months was over 13 miles per hour. At that rate, he said the windmill’s pump could produce about 70,000 gallons of water every day. In higher winds, even more water could be pumped, up to 40,000 gallons per hour at full capacity.8 Strangely, despite the official Murphy Windmill name, the San Francisco Examiner article about the ceremony called it the “new Dutch Windmill at the southwestern section of the park.”
 

Murphy Windmill and Millwright House, 1931.Murphy Windmill and Millwright House, 1931. (wnp14.13459; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

With the Murphy Windmill operating, it now needed a place for its keeper to live nearby. The Reid Brothers designed a home called the Millwright’s Cottage that was built next to the windmill and completed in 1910. The chief duties of the windmill keeper were to oil the bearings and to shut the windmill down in case the winds got too high.9
 

Murphy Windmill, July 18, 1960.Murphy Windmill, July 18, 1960. (wnp27.0959; San Francisco Examiner photograph / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The Murphy Windmill had its fifteen minutes of fame with an appearance in Charlie Chaplin’s film, The Jitney Elopement. Technology soon caught up to the Golden Gate Park windmill operations. Electric pumps were installed in the Dutch Windmill by 1913 and in the Murphy Windmill by 1916. As a result, the windmills no longer had a functional purpose and were completely removed from service in the 1930s. Thereafter, they fell into disrepair and the City made plans to tear them down in 1958, though the Murphy Windmill could be saved if $30,000 could be found for repairs.10
 

Bladeless Murphy Windmill and Millwright's Cottage, October 14, 1998.Bladeless Murphy Windmill and Millwright’s Cottage, October 14, 1998. (wnp07.00135; Jason Doiy, Photographer – Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review)
 

Fortunately, the windmills were not destroyed, though the Murphy Windmill had its blades removed in March 1966.11 Over the years since then, various preservation efforts were made to restore the windmills. The Murphy Windmill was added to San Francisco’s Designated Landmarks list on July 2, 2000 and restoration efforts finally began in 2002. The work was completed in late 2011 and then shown off to the world at a Dutch Queen’s Day festival on Saturday, April 28, 2012.12 Today, the Murphy Windmill stands stately above Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive as a major attraction for park visitors.
 

Notes:

1. “Banker’s Big Gift to Park,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 25, 1905, p. 7.

2. “Park Commission Accepts Design,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 1906, p. 16.

3. “J.C. Kirkpatrick Succeeds Lloyd,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 12, 1907, p. 16.

4. “Dutch Windmill Started By Mayor,” San Francisco Examiner, April 12, 1908, p. 48.

5. “Rid Parks Of Non-Residents,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 3, 1906, p. 18.

6.Golden Gate Park – Windmills,” www.artandarchitecture-sf.com, March 16, 2012.

7. “The Making of Golden Gate Park, The Growing Years 1906-1950,” by Raymond H. Cleary (Don’t Call It Frisco Press, 1987).

8.Murphy Windmill & Millwright’s Cottage,” Heritage News, Vol. 28, No 4, July/August 2000, pp. 6-7.

9.Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Park Windmills,” by Sarah LeVaun Graulty, University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program, May 1, 2007.

10. “Park Windmills To Be Scrapped,” San Francisco Examiner, July 13, 1958, p. 29.

11. “A City Appeal For Windmills,” San Francisco Examiner, March 23, 1966, p. 3.

12. “Let these sails spin,” by Victoria Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2012, pp. C1, C3.

Giants Welcoming Parades: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series since the franchise moved from New York. To celebrate, San Francisco held a massive victory parade that started at Washington and Montgomery Streets, headed down to Market Street, and ended at the Civic Center. Two more championships and parades followed in 2012 and 2014. Although 2010 was the first title won by the Giants, it was not, however, their first parade in San Francisco. That happened 52 years earlier.
 

Mayor George Christopher waving from car on Montgomery Street during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958.Mayor George Christopher waving from car on Montgomery Street during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958. (wnp14.5453; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Before 1958, there was no major league baseball in San Francisco. Nevertheless, there was a long baseball tradition here with the San Francisco Seals and Mission Oaks minor league teams. After the 1957 baseball season, however, New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham announced that the Giants would be moving to San Francisco. Their bitter rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers were moving to Los Angeles at the same time. In a word, San Francisco was elated.
 

Willie Mays and Hank Sauer in car on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958.Willie Mays and Hank Sauer in car on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958. (wnp27.7160; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

San Francisco was so excited about the arrival of the Giants, it was not about to await a World Series victory to throw them a parade. Thus, the very first Giants parade occurred before the team had even played a game here. On Monday, April 14, 1958, San Francisco held a welcoming parade for the Giants and turned out en masse for it.1
 

Manager Bill Rigney waving from car on Montgomery Street during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958.Manager Bill Rigney waving from car on Montgomery Street during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 14, 1958. (wnp28.5853; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The parade started at Seals Stadium, which was to be the temporary home of the Giants until a new stadium was constructed.2 From there, it headed south on Potrero Avenue before turning west onto [then] Army Street. The parade turned north again on Mission Street, made a jog onto South Van Ness, and headed east down Market Street. At California Street, the parade made a sharp left and then another left onto Montgomery, before ending at the Sheraton Palace Hotel at Montgomery and Market for a welcome luncheon. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the parade route. Supervisor Francis McCarty was the emcee for the luncheon which featured remarks from Mayor Christopher, Stoneham, baseball commissioner Ford Frick, and National League president Warren Giles. The following day, the Giants opened their season against the Dodgers. Ruben Gomez pitched a 6-hit shutout to defeat their hated rivals, 8-0. San Francisco finished the season in third place in the National League.
 

View north of Montgomery Street at San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959.View north of Montgomery Street at San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959. (wnp28.2109; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Not content to welcome the Giants once, San Francisco threw a second welcome parade for the team before the 1959 season. This parade started near where the prior season’s parade ended, at California and Market Streets.3 From there, it did the triangle up California to Montgomery, then down to Market. Then the parade headed west down Market to the Civic Center where it ended at City Hall.
 

Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou greet fan from car at Montgomery and Market during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959.Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou greet fan from car at Montgomery and Market during San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959. (wnp14.10958; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Somebody had the bright idea to give the players “balls” to throw into the crowds from their cars.4 The “balls” were in fact leftover Christmas tree snowballs, but that did not matter to the crowd. Fans scrambled over and pushed one and other to get their hands on a ball tossed by a genuine Giant. After pitcher Johnny Antonelli tossed a ball that made a large curve, a fan shouted “boy Johnny, if only you could thrown ’em like that in a game.” Antonelli grinned in response.
 

Chinatown float in San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959.Chinatown float in San Francisco Giants Welcome Parade, April 13, 1959. (wnp28.1368; San Francisco Examiner photograph / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

While there was a lot of championship talk during the 1959 parade–the Giants had acquired pitcher Sam Jones, who had led the league in strikeouts in 1958, from the Cardinals–the reception was muted in comparison to the year before. Only about 50,000 people attended, far less than the previous year’s festivities. The following day, the Giants lost their home opener to the Chicago Cubs. They would finish the year in 3rd place for the second consecutive season. After two years of season-opening welcome gala festivities, the City was done with Giants parades, at least until the team brought home a championship in 2010. With the 2021 baseball season just beginning, there is hope once more, however remote, of another Giants parade to come.
 

Notes:

1. “Giants Open Up,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 15, 1958, pp. 1-2.

2. “Giants to Welcome Its Own Giants In Parade Today,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 1958, p. 1.

3. “Giants’ Parade Route Here Set,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 1959, p. 6H.

4. “Big Welcome for Giants,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 1959, pp. 1, 11.