Front of Stanford Quad — Louis Agassiz statue fallen in front of Zoology Building; 1906. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)

“We’re up against it.” Images of the 1906 earthquake — the Peninsula’s most famous forgotten catastrophe

On the anniversary of the Bay Area’s worst disaster, take a visual tour as a reminder of what we’ve overcome in the past.

It is widely remembered as “the San Francisco Earthquake.” And rightfully so, since the 7.9 magnitude quake that emanated from the San Andreas fault line during the early morning hours of April 18th, 1906, would soon—in concert with the catastrophic fires that subsequently resulted from it—claim the lives of 3000 residents and destroy 80% of the city. The event was catalogued as one of the worst natural disasters in American history and embedded into the longterm identity of the city.

The Palo Alto Hotel; 1906. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)

Of course, the damage down on the Peninsula was hardly insignificant: the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City crumbled, buildings along University Avenue in Palo Alto collapsed and the Stanford campus was ravaged with widespread destruction.

And yet, whether from being overshadowed by the high profile havoc in the city to the north, or simply shrugged off as pre-history during the region’s infancy, the effect of the 1906 quake on the Peninsula has often fallen through the cracks of popular memory.

So as this week marks the 114 anniversary of the catastrophic event, we went digging through the Stanford Photo Archive for some telling imagery that accurately illustrated this past crisis. Collectively, the photographs add up to a visual history that pays testimony to our ability to endure and rebound from disaster, even when it arrives in its most stark manifestations.

Take a look….

San Mateo County Court House in Redwood City; 1906. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)
Stanford Memorial Church; 1906. (Images via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)
University Avenue, Palo Alto; 1906. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)
Clockwise from top: Makeshift student housing on the Stanford Campus in front of Encina Hall (sign reads “We’re ‘Up Against It.’”); Memorial Arch, Stanford Campus; (San Andreas) earthquake fault line in foothills behind campus; interior view of student residences post-earthquake. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)
Angel of Grief statue, Stanford campus; 1906. (Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)

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Charles Russo

Award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience across mediums, including videography, investigative reporting, editing, advanced research, and a wide range of photography.

Author of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America; represented by Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency.

Freelance clients include Google, VICE and Stanford University.

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