One section of the city that went without pity, as it had long stood with reprobation, was that group of disreputable buildings known as Chinatown, the place of residence of many thousands of Celestials. The flames made their way unchecked in this direction, and by noon on Thursday the whole section was a raging furnace, the denizens escaping with what they could carry of their simple possessions. On the farther western side the flames cut a wide swath to Van Ness Avenue, a wide thoroughfare, at which it was hoped the march of the fire in this direction might be checked, especially as the water mains here furnished a weak supply.
In the Missouri district, to the south of Market Street, the zone of ruin extended westward toward the extreme southern portion, but was checked at Fourteenth and Missouri Streets by the wholesale use of dynamite. At this point were located the Southern Pacific Hospital, the St. Francis Hospital and the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In order to save these institutions, buildings were blown up all around them, and by noon the danger was averted. It later became necessary to destroy the Southern Pacific Hospital with dynamite, the patients having been removed to places of safety.
In the centre of San Francisco rises the aristocratic elevation known as Nob’s Hill, on which the early millionaires built their homes, and on which stood the city’s most palatial residences. It ascends so abruptly from Kearney Street that it is inaccessible to any kind of vehicle, the slope being at any angle little short of forty-five degrees. It is as steep on the south side, and the only approach by carriage is from the north. To this hill is due the pioneer cable railway, built in the early ’70’s.
Here the “big four” of the railroad magnates—Stanford, Hopkins, Huntington and Crocker—had put millions in their mansions, the Mark Hopkins residence being said to have cost $2,500,000. These men are all dead, and the last named edifice has been converted into the Hopkins Art Institute, and at the time of the fire was well filled with costly art treasures. The Stanford Museum, which also contains valuable objects of art, is now the property of the Leland Stanford University. The Flood mansion, which cost more than $1,000,000, was one of the showy residences on this hill, west of it being the Huntington home and farther west the Crocker residence, with its broad lawns and magnificent stables. Many other beautiful and costly houses stood on this hill, and opposite the Stanford and Hopkins edifices the great Fairmount Hotel had for two years past been in process of construction and was practically completed. On the northeastern slope of this hill stood the famous Chinatown, through which it was necessary to pass to ascend Nob’s Hill from the principal section of the wholesale district.