The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 368 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

A peculiar feature of the effect of the earthquake on structures of this kind is reported in the case of the Fairmount Hotel, a fourteen-story structure.  The first two stories of the Fairmount are found to be so seriously damaged that they will have to be rebuilt, while the other twelve stories are uninjured.

Various explanations are being made of the surprising resistance shown by the skyscrapers.  The great strength and binding power of the steel frame, combined with a deep-seated foundation and great lightness as compared with buildings of stone, are the main reasons given.  The iron, it is said, unlike stone, responded to the vibratory force and passed it along to be expended in other directions, while brick or stone offered a solid and impenetrable front, with the result that the seismic force tended to expend itself by shaking the building to pieces.

Whether there is any scientific basis for the latter theory or not, it seems reasonable enough, in view of the descriptions given us of the manner in which the steel buildings received the shock.  All things considered, the modern steel building has afforded in the San Francisco earthquake the most convincing evidence of its strength.

From Golden Gate Park came news of the total destruction of the large building covering a portion of the children’s playground.  The walls were shattered beyond repair, the roof fell in, and the destruction was complete.  The pillars of the new stone gates at the park entrance were twisted and torn from their foundations, some of them, weighing nearly four tons, being shifted as though they were made of cork.  It is a little singular that the monuments and statues in the city escaped without damage except in the case of the imposing Dewey Monument, in Union Square Park, which suffered what appears to be a minor injury.

In this connection an incident of extraordinary character is narrated.  Among the statues on the buildings of the Leland Stanford, Jr., University, all of which were overthrown, was a marble statue of Carrara in a niche on the building devoted to zoology and physiology.  This in falling broke through a hard cement pavement and buried itself in the ground below, from which it was dug.  The singular fact is that when recovered it proved to be without a crack or scratch.  This university seemed to be a central point in the disturbance, the destruction of its buildings being almost total, though they had been built with the especial design of resisting earthquake shocks.

Such was the general character of the earthquake at San Francisco and in its vicinity.  It may be said farther that all, or very nearly all, the deaths and injuries were due to it directly or indirectly, even those who perished by fire owing their deaths to the fact of their being pinned in buildings ruined by the earthquake shock, while others were killed by falling walls weakened by the same cause.

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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