Almost as soon as the terrible conflagration had been checked and gotten under control by the heroic efforts of the soldiers and firemen, a little group of the leading citizens of the desolated city had met in the office of Mayor Eugene E. Schmitz and had begun to plan the restoration of their municipality. It was an admirable courage, bred in the stock of those men who in 1849 left comfortable homes in the East to seek their fortune in the Golden State, that inspired the loyal leaders of the present day citizens to provide with far-seeing eyes for the rebuilding of their homes and business houses with more orderly precision after the fire than had been possible during the hustle of early days in a new city.
The old San Francisco was no more, and never could be recalled save as a memory. The local color, atmosphere, that which might be termed the feeling of the old city, vanished with the clustered houses, as rich in tradition as the ancient missions in whose cloisters worshiped the Spanish padre “before the Gringo came.” Heartrending as it was to the citizens who loved their homes and haunts to see them disappear into smoke, there was an attraction about the city of the Golden Gate which endeared it to all Americans.
One of San Francisco’s charms was in its defiance of precedent. There were hills to be conquered, and San Francisco’ s expanding traffic hurled itself at the face of them. It went up and up, with no thought of finding a way around. So it happened that on some of the streets the steepness was too great for horses. In the centre there are cable roads, and on either side of the rails grass grows through the cobbles. The earlier structures on the level were put together in haste. For the most part they remained essentially unchanged until they fell with a crash. True, they had become stained by time, unkempt, dwarfed by new neighbors, but nobody desired to efface them. Away from the business section houses appeared on the various hills, perched precariously near the brink; houses reached by long flights and grown over with roses. The bathing fogs touched them with gray. Moss grew on their roofs. In the little, lofty yards calla lilies bloomed with the profusion of weeds. The natural beauty of the site, the quaintness of the commercial and social development of which it became the centre, attracted the poet and the artist. It incited them to paint the attractions and to sing the praises of their chosen home.
But the loyal sons of those brave pioneers who founded the metropolis were not in the least daunted by the problem of raising from its ruins the whole vast number of dwellings and business houses. The leaders of the people, the men who had been identified with San Francisco since its early days, and whose great fortunes were almost swept away by the cataclysm, lent courage to all the wearied thousands by firm statements of their optimism.