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San Francisco1906 Earthquake Refugee Shacks/Presidio

Pros: These wooden abodes housed more than 16,000 homeless after the earthquake and fire
Cons: Only a few cottages remain
Best For: Peeking into a pair of shacks, renovated and installed in the Presidio

First came the earthquake at 5:12am on April 18, 1906. Broken gas lines and small house fires then erupted into larger conflagrations due to the fact that water mains in the city of San Francisco were also disrupted, making the fire department's job of extinguishing flames, nearly impossible. Three days later, the city was in ruins, leaving 200,000 people, out of a population of nearly 400,000, homeless.

It became the U.S. Army's responsibility, headquartered at the Presidio, to respond to this disaster, by establishing communications, taking care of the wounded, providing food, water and housing. Tent communities sprang up all over the city from Dolores Park to Washington Square, Golden Gate Park and the Presidio (11 official camps in all). Anticipating the need for more durable shelter during the Winter months, a joint project involving the San Francisco Relief Corp, San Francisco Parks Commission and Army Union Carpenters was instituted and construction of wooden cottages in three sizes began. They had windows, cedar shingle roofs, fir floors and redwood walls.
Earthquake Shacks San Francisco 1906

At the peak of the refugee cottage habitation period, 16,448 occupants were living in camps in the city. They paid $2 a month towards the purchase price of $50 per shack, which they were then encouraged to move to a vacant lot when all camps closed in 1908. Many people chose to do this, enlisting the help of horse-drawn flatbed wagons. Families frequently expanded upon the existing frame, to enlarge living space and in recent years several of the original earthquake cottages have been identified around the city.
Earthquake Shacks San Francisco 1906

One individual, Jane Cryan has been responsible for creating public awareness of the importance of the remaining earthquake shacks, in relation to the rebirth of San Francisco post-earthquake and fire. She founded The Society For The Preservation And Appreciation Of San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake Refugee Shacks in 1983 and lived in one, actually several, cobbled together, for a period of time.

Two shacks, side by side can be seen, rescued and preserved as historic monuments to the huge undertaking of housing the homeless earthquake victims, in the Presidio.

San Francisco Earthquake Refugee Cottages
Southeast Corner of Lincoln and Mesa (behind the building)
Presidio, SF 94129

Earthquake Shacks San Francisco 1906