Monday, May 03, 2010

Vintage Views: San Francisco, 1905

video

I’m inaugurating a new series here at Limbo, focusing on rare and fascinating old film footage I have come across while surfing the Web. Today’s first “Vintage Views” video was apparently shot from the front end of a streetcar heading east along San Francisco’s spacious Market Street in 1905, a year before the earthquake and fire of 1906 devastated most of downtown.

The clip isn’t perfect; it was filmed more than a century ago after all. But it’s somewhat mesmerizing to watch the people and assorted vehicles navigate the old Victorian city’s principal east-west arterial, to see automobiles and bicycles dash across the streetcar’s path, and pedestrians stroll over its tracks, confident that they have plenty of time to avoid disaster. Before long, one starts to imagine himself a passenger on that trolley, approaching the clock-towered Ferry Building on the Embarcadero.

At about the 1:25 mark, the streetcar reaches what used to be known as “Cape Horn,” at the windy intersection of Market, Geary, and Kearny streets. That’s where you may spot Lotta’s Fountain and the San Francisco Chronicle headquarters off to the left, with the white San Francisco Examiner headquarters on the right. Slightly further on, also on the right, you’ll sight the original, seven-story Palace Hotel, with its redundant banks of bay windows.

With few exceptions, most notably the Ferry Building, what you see over the course of this eight-minute clip either tumbled to the 7.8 magnitude temblor, or was consumed by the hungry flames that followed that 1906 shaking.

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