Categories
architecture san francisco the ancient past urban

San Francisco / Maps and earthquake shacks

San Francisco in Maps: 1797 - 2006

This week­end I got an incred­i­ble book about San Fran­cis­co called San Fran­cis­co in Maps & Views. I usu­al­ly avoid glossy cof­fee-table his­tor­i­cal books because they're so often filled with dis­ap­point­ments — bad col­or, bad print­ing, messy lay­out, unin­spired writ­ing, PLUS they're real­ly expen­sive. But THIS ONE. This one is dif­fer­ent. The maps are very well-repro­duced, high-res and col­or­ful, and all are sup­port­ed by detailed and sur­pris­ing­ly engag­ing com­men­tary. After I got over the ini­tial thrill of using it like a flip-book and watch­ing my neigh­bor­hood evolve, I start­ed to notice small­er trends in land-use evo­lu­tion — a plot labeled "orphan asy­lum" became "hos­pi­tal;" many things labeled "cemetary" became "park" or "civic cen­ter." "Dunes" become "the Sun­set." I was also intrigued by the use of pub­lic places as refugee camps after the big one hit in 1906. Appar­ent­ly, SF car­pen­ters sprang into action and built thou­sands of makeshift cot­tages for the earthquake/fire refugees, turn­ing many well-known SF pub­lic spaces into refugee camps, includ­ing South Park, Dolores Park, and Precita Park, and lots of the then-out­ly­ing, unde­vel­oped areas, like the Rich­mond and the Sun­set.

Earthquake_shacks_in_Dolores_ParkA shack on Biki­ni Ridge would have been puh-ret­ty sweet. (This is Dolores Park, believe it or not). Pho­to: West­ern Neigh­bor­hoods Project

As the city began to return to nor­mal a year lat­er, a few of the refugees decid­ed to use the cot­tages — or, "shacks" as they were com­mon­ly known — as more per­ma­nent res­i­dences. Some indus­tri­ous peo­ple com­bined mul­ti­ple shacks into one res­i­dence. Incred­i­bly, a few shacks are still around, and nat­u­ral­ly folks have orga­nized to pre­serve them. (Here's a 2002 Chron­i­cle arti­cle about efforts to save some shacks in the out­er Sun­set).

Cumby_shackI believe that this is the house that is list­ed as 300 Cum­ber­land on the West­ern Neigh­bor­hood Project's list of known shacks. The crazy thing is that this is at the top of an insane­ly steep hill, like un-bike-ably steep and long, so it must have been built there rather than trans­port­ed from Dolores Park. On the oth­er hand, who knows? Peo­ple were crafty back then, right?

Final­ly, here's a map of the loca­tions of the known exist­ing earth­quake shacks. Seems like a good project for a week­end after­noon.