“Skirting the shore northwest from the big ferry building—which was so seriously injured that it will have to be rebuilt—the first thing observed was the extraordinary irregularity of the earthquake’s course. Pier No. 5, for instance, is nothing but a mass of ruins, while Pier No. 3, on one side of it and Pier No. 7, on the other side, similar in size and construction, are undamaged. Farther on, the Kosmos Line pier is a complete wreck.”
The big forts at the entrance to the Golden Gate also suffered seriously from the great shake-up, and the emplacements of the big guns were cracked and damaged. The same is the case with the fortifications back of Old Fort Point, the great guns in these being for the present rendered useless. It will take much time and labor to restore their delicate adjustment upon their carriages.
The buildings that collapsed in the city were all flimsy wooden buildings and old brick structures, the steel frame buildings, even the score or more in course of construction, escaping injury from the earthquake shock. Of the former, one of the most complete wrecks was the Valencia Hotel, a four-story wooden building, which collapsed into a heap of ruins, pinning many persons under its splintered timbers.
In fact, as the reports of damage wrought by the earthquake came in, the conviction grew that one of the safest places during the earthquake shock was on one of the upper floors of the skyscraper office buildings or hotels. As a matter of fact, not a single person, so far as can be learned, lost his or her life or was seriously injured in any of the tall, steel frame structures in the city, although they rocked during the quake like a ship in a gale.
The loss of life was caused in almost every case by the collapse of frame structures, which the native San Franciscan believed was the safest of all in an earthquake, or by the shaking down of portions of brick or stone buildings which did not possess an iron framework. The manner in which the tall steel structures withstood the shock is a complete vindication of the strongest claims yet made for them, and it is made doubly interesting from the fact that this is the first occasion on which the effect of an earthquake of any proportions on a tall steel structure could be studied.
The St. Francis Hotel, a sixteen-story structure, can be repaired at an expenditure of about $400,000, its damage being almost wholly by fire. The steel shell and the floors are intact. Although the building rocked like a ship in a gale while the quake lasted, its foundations are undamaged. Other steel buildings which are so little damaged as to admit of repairs more or less extensive are the James Flood, the Union Trust, the call building, the Mutual Savings Bank, the Crocker-Woolworth building and the Postal building. All of these are modern buildings of steel construction, from sixteen to twenty stories.