Share |

The Golden Hydrant/Dolores Park

Pros:Little fire hydrant/big story
Cons: Dogs love it
Best For: Remembering April 18, 1906

The Golden Hydrant

At 5:12am on April 18, 1906 a big rupture occurred on the San Andreas Fault, changing the face of San Francisco forever. As if the earthquake itself did not do enough damage, gas mains broke and small fires began to erupt all over town. As the fire department swung into action with its horse-drawn engines, it was soon discovered that water mains underground were also damaged and hydrant after hydrant yielded not a drop of liquid. Unhindered, the fires spread, rapidly devouring city block after city block of mostly wooden residential structures.

For two days the conflagration raged. Refugees had already congregated in Dolores Park, when on April 20th it seemed likely that the fire was poised to encompass all of the Mission District next. A blacksmith named John Rafferty, believing that a hydrant near his home was functional, opened it up, and miraculously, water flowed. Engines #19 and 29 arrived with horses too exhausted to pull any longer. Approximately 3,000 citizens mobilized to fight the fire. Securing ropes they pulled the engines along, with mops and buckets and anything else useful, they fought the fire back. Houses were torn down on one side of the street, making a fire break, to save the other side. Seven hours later the people were triumphant.

Each year a commemorative ceremony gets underway at 5:12am on April 18th. The event begins at Lotta's Fountain, for wreath-laying. It was here that stunned and homeless victims of the disaster came to wait for news of loved ones, beside a statue donated to the city in 1875 by entertainer, Lotta Crabtree. The monument still stands on Market Street where Geary and Kearney meet. Next on the agenda is the yearly spraying of gold paint upon the famed hydrant, by a survivor of the earthquake and fire. In 2010, 104 year old Bill Del Monte did the honors. Finally it's on to Lefty O'Doul's for a Bloody Mary breakfast.

Those who understand the significance of this golden hydrant, respectfully try and keep their dogs away from it but the allure is understandable.

The Golden Hydrant
SW corner of Dolores Park, at 20th & Church
San Francisco 94113