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The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: Horrible Photos Depicting The Destruction Caused By Devastating Earthquake And Firestorm

On April 18, 1906, a powerful earthquake followed by subsequent fire devastated San Francisco, leaving more than 3,000 people dead and destroying over 80% of the city’s infrastructure and buildings. The earthquake also destroyed the city’s water mains, leaving firefighters with no means of combating the growing blaze, which burned for several days. The fires coalesced into three major blazes — south of Market, north of Market, and in the Hayes Valley, west of the shattered City Hall. Fanned by high winds, this malevolent trio soon united to become one raging firestorm.

The earthquake struck at the coast of Northern California at 5:12 am. High-intensity shaking was felt from Eureka on the North Coast to the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region to the south of the San Francisco Bay Area. At that time, the population of San Francisco was approximately 4000,000 and 250,000 of them were made homeless. 28,000 buildings turned into debris and the damages were estimated at around $500 million (in 1906 dollars).

San Francisco has a history of surviving disasters, and despite the disastrous destruction caused by the earthquake, San Francisco managed to recover quickly and effectively from the earthquake as the city survived during the Gold Rush period. The destruction actually allowed the architects and planners to rebuild a new and improved city. Not long after the disaster, a sign appeared that poked fun at an East Bay rival and summed up the San Francisco spirit. ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry,’ the slogan read, ‘For Tomorrow We May Have to Go to Oakland.’ By 1915 San Francisco hosted the Panama Pacific International Exhibition.

These horrible historical photos perfectly depict the destruction caused by the devastating earthquake and firestorm.

#1 Cooking in the streets of San Francisco.

Cooking in the streets of San Francisco.

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#2 San Francisco residents stand in the rubble-strewn streets watching the fire grow after the earthquake struck on April 18, 1906.

San Francisco residents stand in the rubble-strewn streets watching the fire grow after the earthquake struck on April 18, 1906.

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#3 San Francisco in flames, April 18,1906.

San Francisco in flames, April 18,1906.

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#4 People watch as the Winchester Hotel burns in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

People watch as the Winchester Hotel burns in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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#5 A crowd gathers on Telegraph Hill to watch the burning of San Francisco. The view is looking south.

A crowd gathers on Telegraph Hill to watch the burning of San Francisco. The view is looking south.

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#6 Troops walk east along Market Street after the devastating earthquake of 1906. The Call building burns in the distance

Troops walk east along Market Street after the devastating earthquake of 1906. The Call building burns in the distance

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#7 View of Howard Street homes left tilting after the 1906 San Francisco.

View of Howard Street homes left tilting after the 1906 San Francisco.

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#8 A train thrown down by the earthquake at Point Reyes Station. The train was standing on a siding. Beyond are the buildings of the Point Reyes Hotel and, on the extreme right, the ruin of a stone store which was shaken down.

A train thrown down by the earthquake at Point Reyes Station. The train was standing on a siding. Beyond are the buildings of the Point Reyes Hotel and, on the extreme right, the ruin of a stone store which was shaken down.

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#9 A Postal Telegraph tent is set up on Market Street.

A Postal Telegraph tent is set up on Market Street.

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#10 California Street looking east from Grant Avenue, which was DuPont Street in 1906. The immediate part of this district is that of Chinatown, the lower part is the financial district showing Merchant’s Exchange Building.

California Street looking east from Grant Avenue, which was DuPont Street in 1906. The immediate part of this district is that of Chinatown, the lower part is the financial district showing Merchant’s Exchange Building.

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#11 Pine St. below Kearney St.

Pine St. below Kearney St.

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#12 Holy Cross Church, 1906

Holy Cross Church, 1906

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#13 Marina, 1906

Marina, 1906

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#14 Mission Dolores Church, Dolores and Sixteenth Streets, 1906

Mission Dolores Church, Dolores and Sixteenth Streets, 1906

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#15 Saint Boniface Church, 1906

Saint Boniface Church, 1906

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#16 Saint Mary’s Church, 1906

Saint Mary's Church, 1906

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#17 Third and Folsom Streets, 1906

Third and Folsom Streets, 1906

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#18 View east on Post St. past Shreve & Co. Building, 210 Post St., still standing, 1906

View east on Post St. past Shreve & Co. Building, 210 Post St., still standing, 1906

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#19 Call Building, 1906

Call Building, 1906

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#20 City Hall, 1906

City Hall, 1906

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#21 Crocker Building on Market Street, 1906

Crocker Building on Market Street, 1906

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#22 Fairmont Hotel, 1906

Fairmont Hotel, 1906

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#23 Fire scene on Third Street above Mission Street, April 1906

Fire scene on Third Street above Mission Street, April 1906

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#24 Flood Mansion, 1906

Flood Mansion, 1906

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#25 Breuner’s furniture store burning out of control in San Francisco at 11 p.m. on April 18, 1906.

Breuner’s furniture store burning out of control in San Francisco at 11 p.m. on April 18, 1906.

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#26 San Francisco residents, some seated in chairs, sit among the earthquake damage, watching out-of-control fires in the distance

San Francisco residents, some seated in chairs, sit among the earthquake damage, watching out-of-control fires in the distance

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#27 Smoke rises from burning buildings on the waterfront during the fire after the earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco, California.

Smoke rises from burning buildings on the waterfront during the fire after the earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco, California.

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#28 Fire in San Francisco following the great earthquake of 1906.

Fire in San Francisco following the great earthquake of 1906.

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#29 Rescue workers helping survivors in the wreckage.

Rescue workers helping survivors in the wreckage.

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#30 African American families on street during the San Francisco Fire of 1906, with clouds of smoke billowing at bottom of hill in background.

African American families on street during the San Francisco Fire of 1906, with clouds of smoke billowing at bottom of hill in background.

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#31 Onlookers pose for a photograph as San Francisco burns in the background on April 18, 1906.

Onlookers pose for a photograph as San Francisco burns in the background on April 18, 1906.

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#32 View of earthquake damage and fires across California Street, south of Nob Hill.

View of earthquake damage and fires across California Street, south of Nob Hill.

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#33 A horse-drawn fire engine retires from a fire to move to a new location on April 19, 1906.

A horse-drawn fire engine retires from a fire to move to a new location on April 19, 1906.

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#34 Evacuees drag trunks from the fire on Van Ness Avenue.

Evacuees drag trunks from the fire on Van Ness Avenue.

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#35 Refugees, aid workers, and soldiers clog a San Francisco intersection after the earthquake and fire.

Refugees, aid workers, and soldiers clog a San Francisco intersection after the earthquake and fire.

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#36 The view northeast from City Hall showing massive damage to San Francisco.

The view northeast from City Hall showing massive damage to San Francisco.

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#37 Souvenier hunters. In the early stages, these people caused considerable trouble to the military authorities.

Souvenier hunters. In the early stages, these people caused considerable trouble to the military authorities.

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#38 Ruins of San Francisco, Nob Hill in foreground, viewed from the Lawrence Captive Airship from a height of 1,500 feet on May 29, 1906, 41 days after the disaster.

Ruins of San Francisco, Nob Hill in foreground, viewed from the Lawrence Captive Airship from a height of 1,500 feet on May 29, 1906, 41 days after the disaster.

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#39 Detail of the panorama photograph of a ruined San Francisco, viewed from the Lawrence Captive Airship on May 29, 1906.

Detail of the panorama photograph of a ruined San Francisco, viewed from the Lawrence Captive Airship on May 29, 1906.

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#40 After the disaster, looking down Sacramento Street, from Nob Hill, with the Ferry Building in background.

After the disaster, looking down Sacramento Street, from Nob Hill, with the Ferry Building in background.

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#41 Looking up California Street from Sansome Street.

Looking up California Street from Sansome Street.

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#42 Refugees from the disaster rest on a hillside.

Refugees from the disaster rest on a hillside.

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#43 The destroyed San Francisco City Hall and dome at McAllister Street and Van Ness Avenue.

The destroyed San Francisco City Hall and dome at McAllister Street and Van Ness Avenue.

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#44 The toppled statue of Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, scientist and scholar, knocked from the facade of Stanford University’s zoology building in April of 1906.

The toppled statue of Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, scientist and scholar, knocked from the facade of Stanford University’s zoology building in April of 1906.

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#45 Bread lines formed across the city as aid distribution centers were established.

Bread lines formed across the city as aid distribution centers were established.

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#46 Junction of Sacramento, Market, and Embarcadero Streets, and part of the car track loop in front of the Ferry Building.

Junction of Sacramento, Market, and Embarcadero Streets, and part of the car track loop in front of the Ferry Building.

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#47 Disruption of Van Ness Avenue over a filled-in ravine. Original caption: “Break in asphalt paving on Van Ness Avenue near Vallejo Street.

Disruption of Van Ness Avenue over a filled-in ravine. Original caption: “Break in asphalt paving on Van Ness Avenue near Vallejo Street.

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#48 Looting a cash register and destroyed buildings at corner of 4th and Market Streets.

Looting a cash register and destroyed buildings at corner of 4th and Market Streets.

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#49 Market Street at the junction of Powell and Market, looking east toward the Ferry Building.

Market Street at the junction of Powell and Market, looking east toward the Ferry Building.

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#50 Preparing hot food for refugees.

Preparing hot food for refugees.

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#51 Families take refuge in tents set up in green spaces and parks across the city.

Families take refuge in tents set up in green spaces and parks across the city.

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#52 Market Street, looking west toward the Twin Peaks, from Battery Street. Both sides of Market Street lined with ruined buildings from Battery to Powell.

Market Street, looking west toward the Twin Peaks, from Battery Street. Both sides of Market Street lined with ruined buildings from Battery to Powell.

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#53 Street scenes of San Francisco after the earthquake, April 1906

Street scenes of San Francisco after the earthquake, April 1906

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#54 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#55 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#56 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#57 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#58 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#59 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#60 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#61 General view, 1906

General view, 1906

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#62 Guerrero and 17th Streets Looking Northwest, 1906

Guerrero and 17th Streets Looking Northwest, 1906

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#63 J. Schweitzer Company, 1906

J. Schweitzer Company, 1906

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#64 Jefferson Square refugee camp, 1906

Jefferson Square refugee camp, 1906

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#65 Lobos Square refugee camp in the Marina, 1906

Lobos Square refugee camp in the Marina, 1906

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#66 Marina, 1906

Marina, 1906

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#67 Mills Building, northeast corner of Montgomery & Bush Streets, 1906

Mills Building, northeast corner of Montgomery & Bush Streets, 1906

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#68 Moulder Warehouse, 1906

Moulder Warehouse, 1906

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#69 Nob Hill, 1906

Nob Hill, 1906

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#70 Nob Hill, 1906

Nob Hill, 1906

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#71 Pierce Rudolph Storage on Eddy Street between Fillmore and Webster Streets, 1906

Pierce Rudolph Storage on Eddy Street between Fillmore and Webster Streets, 1906

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#72 Portland Jewelry Company, 1906

Portland Jewelry Company, 1906

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#73 Presidio refugee camp, 1906

Presidio refugee camp, 1906

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#74 Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park near McLaren Lodge, 1906

Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park near McLaren Lodge, 1906

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#75 Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park, 1906

Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park, 1906

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#76 Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park, 1906

Refugee camp in Golden Gate Park, 1906

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#77 Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

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#78 Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

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#79 Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

Refugee camp in Jefferson Square Park, 1906

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#80 Refugee camp in Portsmouth Square, 1906

Refugee camp in Portsmouth Square, 1906

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#81 Refugee camp, 1906

Refugee camp, 1906

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#82 Refugee camp, 1906

Refugee camp, 1906

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#83 Refugee camp, 1906

Refugee camp, 1906

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#84 Russian Hill with Octagon House, 1906

Russian Hill with Octagon House, 1906

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#85 Russian Hill, 1906

Russian Hill, 1906

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#86 Saint Francis Church, 1906

Saint Francis Church, 1906

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#87 Saint Luke Church, 1906

Saint Luke Church, 1906

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#88 Saint Mary’s Church, 1906

Saint Mary's Church, 1906

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#89 Saint Mary’s Church, 1906

Saint Mary's Church, 1906

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#90 Sansome Street, 1906

Sansome Street, 1906

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#91 Street typist, 1906

Street typist, 1906

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#92 Third and Brannan Streets looking up 3rd, 1906

Third and Brannan Streets looking up 3rd, 1906

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#93 Third and Brannan Streets looking west on Brannan, 1906

Third and Brannan Streets looking west on Brannan, 1906

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#94 Union Square, 1906

Union Square, 1906

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#95 Union Square, 1906

Union Square, 1906

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#96 View from Nob Hill looking east, 1906

View from Nob Hill looking east, 1906

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#97 View from Nob Hill looking east, 1906

View from Nob Hill looking east, 1906

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#98 View from Nob Hill, 1906

View from Nob Hill, 1906

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#99 View near Portsmouth Square, 1906

View near Portsmouth Square, 1906

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#100 View of the Waterfront, 1906

View of the Waterfront, 1906

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#101 Citizen’s National Bank, 1906

Citizen's National Bank, 1906

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#102 City Hall Avenue in the Civic Center and Pioneer Monument, 1906

City Hall Avenue in the Civic Center and Pioneer Monument, 1906

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#103 City Hall, 1906

City Hall, 1906

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#104 Ferry Building, 1906

Ferry Building, 1906

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#105 Fire scene from Jefferson Square Park with refugees, April 1906

Fire scene from Jefferson Square Park with refugees, April 1906

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#106 Fire scene from Jefferson Square, April 1906

Fire scene from Jefferson Square, April 1906

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#107 First and Harrison Streets looking southeast, 1906

First and Harrison Streets looking southeast, 1906

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#108 Folsom Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets, 1906

Folsom Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets, 1906

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#109 General view of the waterfront, 1906

General view of the waterfront, 1906

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#110 Ruin At Palo Alto.

Ruin At Palo Alto.

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#111 Boy’s Gymnasium, Stanford University, Palo Alto.

Boy's Gymnasium, Stanford University, Palo Alto.

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#112 At Stanford University, Palo Alto.

At Stanford University, Palo Alto.

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#113 A Block in Redwood City.

A Block in Redwood City.

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#114 High School, Redwood City.

High School, Redwood City.

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#115 Courthouse, Redwood City.

Courthouse, Redwood City.

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#116 San Mateo.

San Mateo.

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#117 Howard Street Near 18th.

Howard Street Near 18th.

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#118 House On Steiner Street.

House On Steiner Street.

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#119 Dore Street.

Dore Street.

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#120 18th Street From Howard.

18th Street From Howard.

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#121 Howard Street Between 17th and 18th.

Howard Street Between 17th and 18th.

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#122 Howard Street Between 17th and 18th.

Howard Street Between 17th and 18th.

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#123 Jones and Market.

Jones and Market.

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