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Mechanics’ Pavilion was directly across the street from Central Emergency Hospital which then occupied a portion of the City Hall basement. CEH, as the hospital was, and is, known, was partially buried by the rubble of the fallen City Hall. The on-duty staff, fortunately not injured, forced open the doors of the Pavilion for use as a hospital. Mechanics’ Pavilion occupied the site of today’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium at Grove and Larkin streets.

This account from the “The Call=Chronicle=Examiner” may seem melodramatic, but pales in comparison to later eyewitness accounts of fearsome conditions in the building between 5:30 a.m. when the doors were forced open, and 1 p.m., when the building was abandoned to the onrushing Hayes Valley fire.


The immense Mechanics’ Pavilion, the former scene of many pleasures and sports, was utilized as a huge morgue and hospital, and soon its space was filled with dead, dying and injured and its vaulted ceiling echoed their cries and groans. Fully 300 persons were treated. Doctors and nurses by the score hurried to the scene and volunteered their much-needed aid. Drug stores were broken into for medical supplies, and the department stores ransacked for pillows and mattresses for the injured.

The scenes and cries were fearful to behold and hear. The operating tables were filled all the time. Infants were brought in in their mothers’ arms, burned and bleeding. Men and women had been caught by falling walls and horribly mangled, in many cases the broken bones protruding through the flesh.

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon the flames which had been gradually creeping nearer and nearer to this improvised hospital, finally reached it.

Dr. Charles Millar, chief surgeon of the Emergency Hospital, immediately ordered all patients removed.

Every sort of vehicle was pressed into service and the dead and injured removed. The wounded were taken to Golden Gate Park, for there was no other haven of refuge not in the danger zone, and laid upon the grass. Many were taken into near by houses by kind-hearted people and cared for.

At the Harbor Hospital fully 100 injured persons had been treated up to 10 o’clock in the morning.

Upon receipt of the news of the disaster torpedo boats and tugs loaded wth navy and army doctors, nurses and sailors, were dispatched from the Mare Island Navy Yard and Goat Island and rendered great aid to the injured in the Harbor hospital.

Never was there such a scene in San Francisco as was there in Mechanics’ Pavilion yesterday. There work was beyond praise. As assistants to Dr. Millar, Doctors Pinkham, Herzog, Tillman, Roche, Goodale and fifty or more volunteers performed the surgical work.

And the nurses. Well, their efforts will long be remembered. Young women from the hospitals, graduates in the nurses’ homes, neighbor women and those who drove to the door of Mechanics’ Pavilion in their private automobiles, all took a hand in the work. Catholic sisters worked by the side of Salvation Army lasses, and the priests and ministers made their way among the cots, giving the comfort of their cloth.

The Call=Chronicle=Examiner
April 19, 1906

Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.