Tuesday, April 25, 2006

After 100 Years: The Survival Of The Ferry Building

"I kind of like things slightly out of tune. It makes me feel...intoxicated almost, but in a good way. Like I'm at a carnival in a dream."

-Christine Anderson

Last Tuesday, April 18th, the city of San Francisco, and many Bay Area cities for that matter, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the great earthquake of 1906. The quake registered 7.9 on the Reichter scale and shook the ground between 40 and 60 seconds. The devastation was widespread. San Jose, to the south was left in ruins, as well as Santa Rosa to the north. Nearly the entire area south of Market in San Francisco crumbled to the ground, while other areas of the city, such as Nob Hill, Pacific Heights and Russian Hill emerged with little damage. With the city in ruins, there was some extraordinary individuals who were on hand to do some early documentation of what was left after the ground stopped shaking. Author Jack London, was one of those who grabbed a camera...and in doing so recorded the quakes aftermath.

The light show at the Ferry Building, on the Embarcadero, was gorgeous. It was hard to believe that 100 years had gone by. Growing up in the Bay Area, meant that I had been through many different quakes, of many different intensities, so when looking at the historical photographs of the quake of 1906, it never really seemed possible for that to happen again. My attitude about that changed, after I experienced the 7.1 Loma Prieda earthquake of 1989. It hit just after 5:00 PM and shook for approximately 20 seconds. Like the San Francisco quake of 1906, there was widespread damage. Buildings toppled as far south as Santa Cruz.

Interesting Fact: The San Francisco quake struck at 5:12 am Pacific Time. The Loma Prieta quake, of 1989 hit at 5:04 pm Pacific Time. The clock on the Ferry Building stopped running after the 1906 quake, and remained stuck at 5:16 for over a year before it was repaired.

The Ferry Building was designed in late 1892 by A. Page Brown, a graduate of Cornell University. The inspiration for it came from the design of the La Giralda bell tower of Seville Cathedral.

At one time the Ferry Building was one of the most used transportation halls in the world. The completion of the Bay Bridge, and decline of Ferry usage made the building somewhat obsolete. At one time as many as 170 ferry boats a day had bought commuters and transcontinental railroad passengers to the foot of Market Street, where the city streetcar lines ended.

The Ferry Building was designated as a landmark in 1977 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was reopened on March 21, 2003 after a $75,000,000 restoration project. The clock and ferry Building were named City Landmark #90 on July 9, 1977.

The clock, with it's four 22-foot diameter clock faces, was officially re-started on June 17, 2003 at 12 noon by Mayor Willie Brown.

To be able to sit at Justin Herman Plaza last week, and enjoy this beautiful display of sound and color was a complete joy.Throughout the day there had been many different ceremonies in remembrance of the event. There were survivors of the 1906 quake on hand to share their memories of the day. Listening to their first person accounts was quite moving, and at time amusing, as one survivor recounted how she had been raised by day by the prostitutes of San Francisco, while her parents sought gainful employment after losing all they owned to the quake.The events of the day, the colors moving over the tower, and the warm spring weather all seemed somewhat surreal. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the sound of the Ethereal Musician playing something appropriate on his saxophone. :) I love searching for, and then finding the light. :)

"San Francisco Ferry Building"
San Francisco, California
April 18, 2006


Becky said...

Wow! The lights/colors are just stunning! What a neat old building.

Suzanne R said...

Beautiful pictures! I enjoyed the last paragraph very much, too. My sister lives with her family in SF, so it's great to be learning more about her/your city!