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“Various Aspects of the San Francisco Disaster”

In The Monumental News Magazine, Vol. XVIII, No. 8, August, 1906, pp. 555-558.

The Wreck at Stanford University

“The earthquake was evidently much more violent at Palo Alto near which stands the famous Leland Stanford Jr. University, then at San Francisco, judging from the fearful havoc wrought.

“The magnificent Stanford Memorial Chapel was almost totally wrecked. The tall, heavy spire was shaken from its base and came crashing down through the roof of the nave, the compressed air blowing off the upper part of both ends of the church. The walls, generally, of steel construction are intact, but the entire interior of the church is totally wrecked. The Memorial Chapel was erected in honor of Hon. Leland Stanford, by his wife, Mrs. Jane L. Stanford, at a cost of more than $1,000,000.

“The interior contained many beautiful and costly memorial windows, mosaics and sacred statuary. Among other splendid works of art were full life size marble statues of Christ and the twelve Apostles. No attempt will be made for the present to rebuild this magnificent chapel.

“The shock also wrecked the unfinished library building, the new gymnasium and the Art Museum. The power house was wrecked by the fall of the heavy chimney. The latter was snapped off near the base like a pipe stem. Much damage was also done to the chemistry building and the expensive apparatus and laboratory. Other buildings suffered more or less damage.

“The famous Memorial Arch which was illustrated and described in detail in The Monumental News of November, 1901, had its upper part snapped off and is split almost to the base, so that it is practically an entire wreck and will have to be rebuilt.

(Photo caption, pp. 555) “The Great Memorial Arch at Stanford University Before and After the Earthquake.” The Great Memorial Arch at Stanford University Before and After the Earthquake

“This great arch was principally built of brick, reinforced with steel and faced with San Jose sandstone. With the exception of ‘St. Denis’ in Paris, this was the largest arch in the world. It was larger than the famous structure at Rome - the Arch of Emperor Titus - erected in honor of that renowned pagan general upon his victorious return after the destruction of Jerusalem.

“The arch was over 100 feet high, and running around it at a height of 80 feet was a frieze portraying a sculptured story of American civilization. The total length of the frieze on all four sides was 232 feet, its height 12 feet, and it contained 150 heroic figures standing out in relief from one to two feet. That portion of the frieze extending across the front of the arch is 86 feet long. The frieze was modeled by Rupert Schmid, of San Francisco, and executed under his supervision. Mr. Schmid and a dozen assistants were over 18 months at the work.

“One of our illustrations shows how the famous ‘Angel of Grief’ was wrecked. This work of sculptural art is on the university grounds a few rods from the beautiful marble mausoleum in which are the ashes of Hon. Leland Stanford, his son, and those of the late Mrs. Jane L. Stanford. The mausoleum sustained comparatively small damage. The Angel of Grief was one of the most notable pieces of sculpture in California. It represented an angel kneeling, with bowed head, in prayer. The figure was of heroic size and was carved from white Italian marble. The work was executed in Italy. All the marble circular canopy, and the shapely pillars supporting the upper work, were smashed to pieces. The angel figure also suffered irreparable damage. Besides being cracked and otherwise marred, the lower half of one of the wings was broken off. The damages, it is thought, are beyond all repair. [* Please see the note by Bob Giles located at the bottom of this page for clarification about the information presented in the above above. Peggy B. Perazzo]

(Photo caption, pp. 556) “The Angel of Grief, Stanford University, After The Earthquake.” The Angel of Grief, Stanford University, After The Earthquake

“At first the total damage to Stanford University was estimated as high as $7,000,000; however, a closer examination of the wrecked and damaged buildings by experts shows that the losses are much less than at first reported.

“For the present, only the most necessary repairs will be made. The endowment of the university is $28,000,000, which is to be expended in ‘building and maintenance.’ This princely endowment fund is entirely unaffected by the disaster. Fortunately no fires followed the shock. Only one human life was lost - a young student - though a number of persons sustained more or less severe injuries.

How the Monuments were Demolished.

“Our illustrations show the freakish ways in which the shock twisted and turned the monuments of San Francisco. The Dewey monument in Union Plaza, is seen standing stately and unharmed amid the surrounding wreckage, and one of the other picture shows how the statue of Agassiz was hurled from its pedestal and buried head first in the street pavement.

(Photo caption, pp. 556) “Union Plaza And Dewey Monument After The Disaster.” Union Plaza And Dewey Monument After The Disaster
(Photo caption, pp. 556) “Statue of Agassiz, San Francisco, Overturned And Driven into The Street.”* Statue of Agassiz, San Francisco, Overturned And Driven into The Street.

(* Please note that I believe the Statue of Agassiz is located at the Stanford University in Palo Alto rather than in San Francisco as noted in the photo above. Peggy B. Perazzo)

“Another picture shows how an elaborate private monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery was wrenched to pieces. The shaft and ornamental carving may be seen lying on the ground. The die is supported by one of the corner columns and is on the verge of falling. On the other hand the Italian marble statue mounted on a boulder pedestal in the same cemetery shown in another picture, escaped uninjured, though seemingly much less substantially mounted.

(Photo caption, pp. 557) “A Damaged Monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco.” A Damaged Monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco
(Photo caption, pp. 557) “A Statue Uninjured in Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco.” A Statue Uninjured in Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco

Scientist Explains Twisting of Monuments.

“Prof. Edgar L. Larkin, of the Mount Lowe Observatory, in California, has made the accompanying interesting diagram showing the displacement of monuments in the cemeteries, which appeared in a recent issue of the Scientific American. He says:

“‘A cemetery filled with monuments, columns, and obelisks is a capital place to study the effects of an earthquake. Amplitudes and azimuths of disturbed monoliths and pillars reveal at once the action of the earth upheavals. I had no instruments with which to measure, so had to make estimates.

“‘Laurel Hill Cemetery I found a field of distorted, shifted, turned, cracked, overthrown, and ruined columns, pillars, shafts, capitals in white marble, gray granite, and other materials. Angels’ wings were broken, sculptures were round about, and heavy bases were twisted out of their original positions. At first I noted distortions on both sides of an avenue of tombs. Here are directions in which the tops of fallen columns and monuments were pointing along either side, in a distance of 150 feet: N. 1, S. 2, E. 9, W. 5, N.E. 4, N.W. 5, S.E. 5, S.W. 5. From this I thought that the chief distortion was toward the east. Then facings of those that were skewed around on their bases, but not overthrown, were noted as follows: N. 1, S. 1, E. 2, W. 1, N.E. 4, N.W. 0, S.E. 2, S.W. 1. All these had been twisted around against intense friction at their bases. The one marked N. originally faced eastward, and the one shown as facing S. once faced westward. I examined many others, hoping to make order out of chaos, or find a general trend in direction, but could not. The conclusion reached was that the monuments were thrown over and twisted in every direction.

(Photo caption, pp. 557) “How The Earthquake Scattered The Monuments. Figs. 1 to 12 show the displacements of monuments in San Francisco cemeteries. The larger squares are bases of stone resting on the ground. The smaller squares and the two circles (Figs. 6 and 8) are bases of high monuments. The greatest shifting measured was 10 ½ inches. The lateral movements appear to have been in all directions. Fig. 13 shows a double displacement of two bases and monument. The square 1 is a large granite base; the square 2 is a second stone upon which the column 3 rested. Figs. 14 to 25 indicate the positions of over-thrown monuments. The two low monuments with urns (Figs. 21 and 22) could not have been thrown by the same oscillations of the earth.’” How The Earthquake Scattered The Monuments

“‘The Oddfellows’ Cemetery was explored. This is more modern than Laurel Hill; the monuments are higher and heavier. They were fastened down by lead in some cases. The most complete confusion reigned. The displacements likewise were in every direction. An observer with instruments, upon making surveys during a month might find a majority of fallen columns pointing one way, or facings, but it is doubtful. The earth’s surface surely moved in every direction. As nearly every brick and stone building was destroyed, they could not be studied. The great Fairmount Hotel has rents in the corners, and several high up, along near the middle of the facades. The new $5,000,000 post office is torn near the corners. The Towering steel and stone Spreckels Building stands as a skeleton, but looking down on a wilderness of ruins of all old-type buildings. For the new city will be erected around ribs of rigid steel. the accompanying diagram shows roughly the distortions in the cemeteries. The line N.S. is due north and south. Twistings of obelisks that did not fall range from five to seventy degrees in all directions from their original foundations. My impressions gained in the cemetery were confirmed upon receipt by mail of a seismograph sent me by F. M. Clarke, steward and executive officer of the California Veterans’ Home, Yountville, Napa County. It indeed shows that the ground moved in every possible direction. On leaving the cemetery I wrote an article for the papers, saying that it was a circular disturbance, and the graph reveals a circle near the center. Mr. Clarke says: ‘The first movement had a N. and S. direction, but was swiftly compounded with a circular, twisting movement, accompanied with severe upward thrusts. The first movement was decidedly wave-like; then a cessation, followed by the severe twist.’ Napa is 45 miles north of San Francisco, and San José, 50 south. Both were destroyed.’”


* Bob Giles view regarding the Stanford Angel and commentary:

This is hardly a great sculpture; there is a much better copy of the original in Colma’s Cypress Lawn Cemetery...it’s more accurate and in fact as good as the original sculpture in Cimitero Acattolico (Protestant Cemetery) located in the southern part of Rome, Italy (made by American William Wetmore Story).

If any ‘Angel of Grief’ were to be thought of as famous it would have to be the original from which the many copies and variations were made. The original did not have the pillars that fell onto the angel later. The sculpture already borders on kitsch and adding the pillars and what appears to be a canopy just pushes it into that area more.

The Stanford variation (and that’s what it is — not a faithful copy) is second rate and hardly could be considered one of the most notable sculptures in California. Again, in Colma one can find many better funerary sculptures. Most of the angel “copies” (and there are many) in America are really variations.

For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_of_Grief

The sculpture is not “heroic size” but in fact very close to life size.

It did not necessarily represent an angel praying; it’s pretty much up to the viewer...just as likely mourning as praying. The angel did not suffer irreparable damage as it’s restored today sans the pillars, etc.

Bob Giles
website: bobgilesart.com

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