“The fire swept this Mongolian quarter clean. It left no shred of the painted wooden fabric. It ate down to the bare ground, and this lies stark, for the breezes have taken away the light ashes. Joss houses and mission schools, groceries and opium dens, gambling resorts and theatres, all of them went. These buildings blazed up like tissue paper.
“From this place I saw hundreds of crazed yellow men flee. In their arms they bore opium pipes, money bags, silks and children. Beside them ran the trousered women and some hobbled painfully. These were the men and women of the surface. Far beneath the street levels in those cellars and passageways were other lives. Women, who never saw the day from their darkened prisons, and their blinking jailors were caught and eaten by the flames.”
Devastation spread widely on all sides, ruining the homes of the rich as well as of the poor, of Americans as well as of Europeans and Asiatics, the marts of trade, the haunts of pleasure, the realms of science and art, the resorts of thousands of the gay population of the Golden State metropolis. To attempt to tell the whole story of destruction and ruin would be to describe all for which San Francisco stood. Science suffered in the loss of the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, which was destroyed with its invaluable contents. This building, erected fifteen years ago at a cost of $500,000, was a seven-story building with a rich collection of objects of science. Much of the academy’s contents can never be replaced. It represented the work of many years. There was a rare collection of Pacific Sea birds which was the most valuable of its kind in the world. In fact, the entire collection of birds ranked very high, was visited by ornithologists from every country, and was the pride of the city. The academy was founded in 1850, James Lick, the same man who endowed the Lick Observatory, giving it $1,000,000, so it was on a prosperous footing. It will take many years of active labor to replace the losses of an hour or two of the reign of fire in this institution, while much that it held is gone beyond restoration.
Art suffered as severely as science, the valuable collections in private and public buildings being nearly all destroyed. We have spoken of the rare paintings burned in the Bohemian Club building. The collections on Nob’s Hill suffered as severely. When the mansions here, the Fairmount Hotel and Mark Hopkins Institute were approached by the flames, many attempts were made to remove some of the priceless works of art from the buildings. A crowd of soldiers was sent to the Flood and the Huntington mansions and the Hopkins Institute to rescue the paintings. From the Huntington home and the Flood mansion canvases were cut from the framework with knives. The collections in the three buildings, valued in the hundreds of thousands, in great part were destroyed, few being saved from the ravages of the fire.