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San Francisco had more than a score of institutions devoted to the housing and care of children. Not one of them passed through the earthquake without damage, but in the whole record of their crumbling walls and showers of plaster only one life was lost - that of an infant in the Alexander maternity cottage. The babe was less than forty-eight hours old and its condition was such that it was not expected to survive the night of the 17th. And when the shock came a convulsive twitch of the tiny body ended its struggle for existence.

To any one viewing the remains of the large and supposedly substantial buildings which housed the orphans of San Francisco it seems miraculous that many lives were not crushed out. Roofs tumbled in, furniture was shattered, window glass flew in all directions and panics among the children resulted, yet all were saved and have since been removed to places which appear to offer greater safety than the buildings which remain in this city.

The historic old adobe structure at Geary and Franklin, used as the home of the Ladies’ Protection and Relief Society, had stood the assaults of the elements since 1868, but was a wreck within ten seconds of the giant shock. The windows were reduced to atoms, doors were wrenched from their hinges, portions of the side walls fell and the roof of the annex, containing the offices, reposes on the sidewalk below. Bureaus and chairs were toppled over by the temblor, and the building was rendered hopelessly untenable. But the officers kept their heads, and today each and every occupant on that fateful morning is enjoying life across the bay. What will be done with the building has not been decided. It is evidently beyond repair.

The Children’s Hospital at California and Maple streets, had ninety young patients on the morning of the disaster. Today, it has but sixty-five, and Superintendent Martin W. Fleming is inclined to the believe, now becoming quite general, that a good scare can frighten even disease. At least it seemed to be a good thing for the convalescents of the institution, many of whom were able to leave within two or three days after the first shock. The damage there was sustained principally by the main building which is a good deal older than the large brick addition. Every chimney was thrown down, the two upper floors were completely wrecked and the roof of the nurses’ quarters was perforated by the tumbling of the tall chimney on the laundry. Falling brick also wrecked the roof of the maternity cottage, closely adjoining. it was this shock that hastened the death of the sickly infant.

The most complete ruin of all, perhaps is the Maria Kip Orphanage, on Lake street, near Seventh avenue. The entire front of the building collapsed and now covers the once-beautiful flower garden surrounding the house. The walls are cracked in some places to the width of six and eight inches and some of the principal corridors are almost impassable, so completely was the interior demolished. There were 125 children in bed at the time of the shock. A panic could not be averted. Mrs. Alice Fox, the superintendent, and her aides literally flew from room to room, urging the restoration of order, and after long effort managed to get the little ones out into a vacant lot with sufficient clothing to get away in. The building was abandoned for all time. It will have to be torn down.

The superintendent hastened to communicate with members of the board, most of whom are Episcopal dignitaries, but being unable to locate them, she did not wait for an order for the removal of her wards. She took them in apple pie order to the ferry and over to Ross valley, Marin county. Not one was injured during the excitement or on the way, and a better piece of management is not recorded in the history of the calamity. It is said that the directors are already considering the question of rebuilding on another site, possibly at Ross valley, their temporary station.

The San Francisco Nursery for Homeless Children, Thirteenth avenue and Lake street, is also a wreck. The forty-nine occupants of the place escaped without injury, notwithstanding that the interior was badly shattered and one corner of the building, the long perpendicular pipes of the boiler house, the brick chimneys and portions of the roof were hurled to the ground. This institution is not far removed from the Presidio Hospital. Mrs. M.J. Hubbert, the matron, appealed to the authorities there for tents and received a sufficient number to shelter the children for the time being. Meanwhile she busied herself with the transportation committee, and a few days ago left with her little band of forty- four for Sacramento, leaving five or six of the older children to watch the premises in her absence.

Many cases of child heroism can be told by these matrons on their return to the city. One case is reported at the Kip orphanage of a fifteen-year-old boy who, in the midst of the excitement, climbed a water-pipe and re-entered the crumbling building to get his younger brother a pair of pants; while at the nursery they speak of a lad named Connelly who had to be dragged away from his work of throwing quilts and cots out of windows after the earthquake.

At the Youths’ Directory Father D.O. Crowley marched the boys out in order and took them to a place of safety. The Florence Crittenden Home on Hyde street was burned. The Armitage Orphanage at San Mateo, the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society at Baker and Grove streets, the Fred Finch orphanage, the Catholic Orphan Asylum all suffered to a greater or less extent by fire or earthquake.

But the children were spared.

San Francisco Chronicle
May 1, 1906
Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.

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