Celebrating Survival in San Francisco

1906 EQ ceremony at Lotta's Fountain

1906 EQ commemoration at Lotta’s Fountain, 2014

Every April 18 since the 1906 earthquake there has been a commemoration in San Francisco celebrating the survival of this city and its people.


Since the earthquake hit at 5:12 a.m., the celebration begins at 4:30 in the morning at a historical fountain at Market and Kearny Streets.


Lotta's Fountain, SF

Lotta’s Fountain, SF

Cast iron and  24 feet high, Lotta’s Fountain was a meeting place, on that fatal day in 1906, for survivors to leave messages for loved ones.


Named after Lotta Crabtree, a vaudeville performer who donated it in 1875, the fountain is the site of much celebration every year.  (Fountain info here.)


Map of SF outlining the extent of fire in red. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The 1906 earthquake destroyed 80% of the city; approximately 3,000 people died.  Fires were the major destruction.  Over 100 years later, the earthquake remains the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California’s history.  More EQ info here.


Photo by Arnold Genthe, 1906 EQ fire. Courtesy Wikipedia

In researching my upcoming novel based in San Francisco, I visited the event in 2014.


As it goes every April, presenters dressed in period costumes made proclamations and acknowledgements, and gave an earthquake overview to the crowd of 75-100 people.


Survivors attend every year.  For the 2006 centennial celebration there were 11 survivors who attended, but each year the survivors are fewer.  This year, sadly, the last of the survivors passed away.


SF Mayor Ed Lee second from right

SF Mayor Ed Lee second from right

Mayor Ed Lee, the fire chief, and police chief spoke to our crowd about the importance of fire safety and awareness.


Then at 5:12 am, when the first historical tremor hit, loud sirens screamed out across the dark morning, followed by a moment of silence.



Attendee arriving in old motor car.

My favorite part:  the sing-along, made possible by lyrics printed and distributed to event goers.


We sang “San Francisco” as sung in the 1936 film classic by Jeanette MacDonald.  Everyone merrily joined in:  “Open your Golden Gate, You let nobody wait outside your door….”


SF-Lotta's-fountain,-crowdFollowing the Lotta’s Fountain celebration there were two more annual events that day:  the Golden Hydrant spray painting, and the Remembrance Bloody Mary Breakfast.


Golden Hydrant

Golden Hydrant

The Golden Hydrant attracts a few minutes of frivolity near Dolores Park.  It magically pumped out water when all water was thought to be depleted, and saved a neighborhood.


Following the hydrant event is the Bloody Mary Breakfast at Lefty O’Doul’s Pub.


SF-Lotta's-fountain-detailIt was clear to see the spirit of San Francisco that revived this devastated city in 1906 lives on to this day.


Watch for a scene of the 1906 commemoration in my new novel, Golden Gate Graveyard by Jet Eliot.  A mystery with history, due out later this year.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted

Mission District burning in 1906 EQ, not far from the magic hydrant. Courtesy Wikipedia


Lotta’s Ftn in 1905, before the EQ. Courtesy Wikipedia



43 thoughts on “Celebrating Survival in San Francisco

  1. That’s very early celebration but I bet it is worth to join in. Sounds you have a great idea already for the new book! Wishing you the best, Jet! trust it will be an interesting one!

    Have a great weekend 🙂

    • It was a great event for honoring revival and survival. And I really loved researching the history. Thanks so much, pc, for your comment today. I hope you have a great weekend too, and am wondering if you’ll be exploring the marvelous Rockies this weekend, or doing something equally as fun.

    • Hi Sue. It was great fun, and inspiring too, to be a part of the festivities. There were a lot of people involved, and they were loaded with gusto. Thanks so much for your visit today. 🙂

  2. Those rattles in that beautiful city are frightening. Interesting to see how they celebrate the past. I remember the first one I felt, on 6th floor Pine Street apt and my heavy kitchen table kind of moved and sway right into me as I sat there thinking, okay this is my first hope and hope it’s the last!

  3. How awesome….I had never heard of this event until your post…So much for having a daughter who is a graduate of San Francisco State and never sharing this tidbit of knowledge! 🙂 I think it’s a great way to commemorate that event…especially since the fire was the real killer…not the quake! As always, your posts are very informative…thank you for sharing!!

    • Many of us folks who have lived in SF (including me) have not attended it. I no longer live right in the city. It’s actually a great SF event to go too, though, because it is not a mob scene like all the others are. ha. I sure appreciated your wonderful and enthusiastic comment, Kirt. 🙂

  4. Fascinating, as always. SF surely marches to the beat of a different drummer. A unique and admirable drummer. Can’t wait to read your new novel!!!

    • Yes, that’s right. It was a 1936 classic entitled “San Francisco,” starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracey. The title song is the same song San Franciscans sing in the dark every April 18th. For a film from the 30s, they did an excellent job of dramatizing the EQ–great movie too. Thanks for your comment, Lloyd.

  5. Jet, have you seen “San Andreas” yet? It’s of course about the San Andreas fault creating havoc throughout California, ending up in a total devastation of modern-day San Francisco.

    • Hi Hien, so nice of you to stop by, thank you. I stay away from the EQ movies, I know only too well what they feel like and the havoc they produce. The 1936 movie was low key in comparison, and that’s enough for me. 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing a very interesting piece of San Francisco history. Looking forward to reading your next book that combines two of my favorite things, mystery books and history, and I need to get busy adding your first to my library. Great post!

    • Thanks so much, CI, I am delighted to hear you like mysteries and history too. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this one. And I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you!

  7. Excellent and interesting post. Thank You. Is it odd coincidence that 100 years later just in April there have been two earthquakes, one in Japan and one in Ecuador?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s