On all sides famous landmarks yielded to the fury of the flames. For three miles along the water front the ground was swept clean of buildings, the blackened beams and great skeletons of factories, warehouses and business edifices standing silhouetted against a background of flames, while the whole commercial and office quarter of Market Street suffered a similar fate. We may briefly instance some of these victims of the flames.
Among them were the Occidental Hotel, on Montgomery Street, for years the headquarters for army officers; the old Lick House, built by James Lick, the philanthropist; the California Hotel and Theatre, on Bush Street; and of theatres, the Orpheum, the Alcazar, the Majestic, the Columbia, the Magic, the Central, Fisher’s and the Grand Opera House, on Missouri Street, where the Conried Opera Company had just opened for a two weeks’ opera season.
The banks that fell were numerous, including the Nevada National Bank, the California, the Canadian Bank of Commerce, the First National, the London and San Francisco, the London, Paris and American, the Bank of British North America, the German-American Savings Bank and the Crocker-Woolworth Bank building. A large number of splendid apartment houses were also destroyed, and the tide of destruction swept away a host of noble buildings far too numerous to mention.
At Post Street and Grant Avenue stood the Bohemian Club, one of the widest known social organizations in the world. Its membership included many men famous in art, literature and commerce. Its rooms were decorated with the works of members, many of whose names are known wherever paintings are discussed and many of them priceless in their associations. Most of these were saved. There were on special exhibition in the “Jinks” room of the Bohemian Club a dozen paintings by old masters, including a Rembrandt, a Diaz, a Murillo and others, probably worth $100,000. These paintings were lost with the building, which went down in the flames.
One of the great losses was that of St. Ignatius’ Church and College, at Van Ness Avenue and Hayes Street, the greatest Jesuitical institution in the west, which cost a couple of millions of dollars. The Merchants’ Exchange building, a twelve-story structure, eleven of whose floors were occupied as offices by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, was added to the sum of losses.
For three long days the terrible fire fiend kept up his work, and the fight went on until late on Friday, when the sweep of the flames was at length checked and the fire brought under control. The principal agent in this victory was dynamite, which was freely used. To its work a separate chapter will be devoted. When at length the area of the conflagration was limited the wealthiest part of the city lay in embers and ashes, one of the principal localities to escape being Pacific Heights, a mile west from Nob’s Hill, on which stood many costly homes of recent construction.