• Little Saigon

    Little Saigon and Tendernob

    Little Saigon and the Tendernob are two Tenderloin neighborhoods that are home to large immigrant populations and some of the best food in the city. Join us as we take you on the only food tour of this district and explore the flavors of Asia, the Middle East, and beyond!
  • The Mission

    The Mission District

    San Francisco's 1st neighborhood, The Mission District is still the heart & soul of this vibrant city. This area is so rich in culture, that we have 4 Mission food tours & 2 neighborhood walks.
  • North Beach

    North Beach

    North Beach is that rare thing -- a neighborhood that manages to be a perennial hit with tourists, and also to remain beloved by San Franciscans. It's San Francisco's Little Italy and the home of the beatniks.
  • Scenic Running

    Scenic Running

    Just a short run from the urban landscape of San Francisco's busy city streets you will find numerous trails and parks offering phenomenal views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the City Skyline and other gems.
  • Chinatown


    Established in the 1840s, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Our food and walking tours are 2nd to none.
  • Parrots!


    Wild Parrots in San Francisco? Yes there are officially at least two flocks of wild Parrots here. These Parrots have evolved into a brand new species of parrot indigenous to San Francisco.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Earthquake Shacks by Michael Moran



Michael Moran

On Wednesday, April 18, 1906, at 5:12 am, the ground under San Francisco shook violently for 65 seconds. Earthquake damage was severe, but the ensuing fires were truly catastrophic. Burning for three days, they destroyed over 500 city blocks in the heart of the city. Overcome by shock, panic, and confusion, over half of the city’s 400,000 people ended up homeless.An earthquake shack today

In a remarkable project financed primarily by donations to a relief fund, 5,610 tiny cottages were built to house the homeless. These cottages, now called “earthquake shacks…”

As word traveled around the country about the horrific event and the hundreds of thousands of homeless and helpless people, trains loaded with supplies began heading toward San Francisco. In the first three days, the Presidio issued 3,000 tents, 13,000 ponchos, 58,000 pairs of shoes, 24,000 shirts. Its on-site bakery distributed large quantities of bread. In addition to distributing food and clothing, the Army ran 21 official refugee camps. These camps were organized and maintained in military fashion, and were among the safest and cleanest of the refugee shelters.earthquake shack being moved into place

The 250,000 left homeless after the earthquake established camps in parks, on military reservations, and amidst the ruins. The army helped organize these camps into small tent towns, where people quickly established the routines of everyday life; children formed playgroups, and dining halls and camp fires became the center of social gatherings. In a remarkable project financed primarily by donations to a relief fund, 5,610 tiny cottages were built to house the homeless. These cottages, now called “earthquake shacks,” were placed in rows in parks around the city. Rent ranged from $1 to $2 per month. Although many refugees moved out as the city rebuilt, many were housed more permanently in these small green houses built from redwood and fir by union carpenters. The idea behind these small cottages was to lease them to the homeless refugees, then once the cottages were removed by their tenants, all leased money was returned. By the end of 1906, the city began encouraging people to find vacant lots and remove the shacks from public land. By 1908, these camps were disbanded as the cottages were moved onto the owners’ private property, providing the opportunity for many to own their first homes.

Today, no one knows for sure just how many of these shacks still exist. Because the shacks were so small (typically 14 by 18 feet), many people cobbled together three or four shacks to make a home. In 1984, one home was declared a city landmark when the renter discovered that her house was really three shacks cobbled together: 1224 – 24th Ave.

Another group of four earthquake shacks was discovered in the Sunset District a few years ago on Kirkham Street near 47th Avenue. The Western Neighborhoods Project is working to preserve these shacks and make them available for public viewing. Several shacks are to be found in Bernal Heights and the Excelsior.

Although fun to find, they are easily missed, and some blend in very well to their surroundings. There is an unverified shack on Pearl near Duboce, and in the famous Clarion Alley filled with beautiful murals there are two shacks in the middle of the block. On our Mission-North Food Tour, or ourExplore The Mission Tour, we point out these hidden gems and many others. Join us sometime as we explore San Francisco.

Explore San Francisco, a co-op of guides who explore the City’s “hidden gems.” Info: www.ExploreSanFrancisco.biz or 415.793.1104

November 2013

Comments are closed.