Berkeley and the 1906 earthquake

Sunday is the 104th anniversary of the massive 1906 San Francisco earthquake and SFGate.com is honoring the occasion by running 39 pictures from Berkeley author Richard Schwartz’s book on the subject.

Earthquake Exodus 1906, Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees discusses – in words and pictures – how numerous San Francisco residents came to Berkeley to escape the flames. Many of them stayed, transforming the town from a small community into a bustling city.

The pictures show life before and after the earthquake, with a smattering of shots of burning buildings and heaps of rubble. My favorite is one of Joaquin Miller outside a set of cottages he occupied in what is now the park named after him (above).

“Miller was an early riser, so it was not surprising he was lying awake in bed a little after 5 a.m. on April 18, listening to the dawn chorus of birds,” writes Schwartz.  “He then heard the cattle on his seventy-acre Oakland hills estate begin to moan far earlier than usual. Next his cats ran under his brass bed. He thought they were hiding from a stray dog. ‘I never witnessed such stillness,’” Miller later wrote. “The stillness was ‘terrible’ and the light ‘unnatural.’ Miller suddenly felt a slight jolt, as if he was ‘in a small boat bumping against a wharf.'”


Schwartz, a general contractor by training, came to Berkeley in 1973, but he knows more about the town than most natives. He has written three books on Berkeley history. All have lots of pictures. He self-published his first book, Berkeley 1900, and it went on to be immensely popular. A new edition came out in 2009.

Click here to see more pictures of the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake.

Refugees peeling potatoes, courtesy Richard Schwartz