107th Anniversary of the Great SF Earthquake & the Legend of Castro’s Golden Hydrant
Today marks the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake that nearly knocked the City out. After the powerful quake struck in the pre-dawn hours of April 18th, killing an estimated 3000 citizens and leveling 80% of the City.
A series of explosions followed and a fire began to rage out of control as a result of ruptured gas lines. Unfortunately along with broken gas lines were broken water mains, which meant firefighters were dealing with a serious shortage of water to combat the burning city.
As the fire leapt from building to building fueled by wind and the vacuum the heat was producing neighborhoods scrambled to save homes, businesses and churches.
Fire hydrants ran dry as each neighborhood organized alongside SF Fire Department’s overtaxed and exhausted firefighters. The fire was quickly moving up past Van Ness toward the Mission and the Castro’s borders.
Desperate residents came together at what is now Dolores Park to check the last single fire hydrant left in their neighborhood for water. Miraculously the hydrant at the top of the park at Church and 20th, on the border of Mission/Castro, was still producing water, and hundreds of people pulled horse-drawn fire engines up the Dolores hill to access this last fire hydrant when the engines’ horses couldn’t make it. After a seven-hour long battle against the blaze, the amassed citizen’s and firefighters saved the neighborhood from total destruction.
Each year the City, neighbors, relatives of survivors of ‘The Big One’ and the SFFD gather at the ‘magic’ hydrant to paint it gold and to remember the heroic efforts of the community and its will to survive giving birth to the true essence of the Castro and the City-that we are all in this together-for better or worse-in this glorious City and neighborhood we call home.