The “fact” that San Francisco was completely destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1906 is widely known, of course — but less well known is the actual fact that it was the subsequent fire, raging for three days, that did almost all of the damage.

I stumbled across a little piece of this history several years ago when I rented an apartment on 20th street, in between the Mission District and Noe Valley neighborhoods. As I walked up to Dolores Park and down to the Mission along my new street, I started to notice something odd about the buildings on one side… and also started to wonder about the fact that the fire hydrant at the top of the hill was painted bright gold! After a bit of research I discovered what makes this street unique in San Francisco, and the historical link to the great fire that burned it to the ground.

The miraculous golden fire hydrant, at the highest corner of Dolores Park! (the plaque was added after I moved out of the neighborhood.)

A dramatic panorama of San Francisco after the fire.

photographs of the Mission District’s Valencia Street — before and after.

Representative buildings from the north “burned” side of 20th street. These date from the 1920s and 30s.

The old survivors, all dating from before 1906, all standing on the south side of the street. This is as close as San Francisco gets to ancient history!

View from Dolores Park back towards the city — the 1906 refugees from the fire could see the entire panorama of destruction from here. Today it’s referred to as “Dolores Beach”!