San Francisco State UniversityA-ZSearchCalendarNeed help?News

SF State News
SF State News Home
SFSU in the News
Events Calendar
Gator Sports News

Expert commentary
Expert Commentary 1
Expert Commentary 2
Expert Commentary 3

For Journalists
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Public Affairs Staff

For Faculty
Submit a News Item
Be an Expert Source
Working with the  Media

SFSU Publications
SFSU Magazine

Public Affairs

Following the footsteps of survivors

March 6, 2006

Photo of the ruins of San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 earthquakeA deeply personal quest inspired Eileen Keremitsis' interest in the April 18, 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The historian and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) instructor began her research on the topic a few years after the sudden death of her husband. The focus of her four-week class "Walking San Francisco, 1906," offered by OLLI April 3-24, is the survivors' experience.

"I wanted to know how these people responded to the sudden losses in their lives," the Oakland native said. "How do you go about rebuilding your life after such a catastrophe?"

The quake left 250,000 San Franciscans homeless largely due to 52 fires that burned throughout the city for four days. Keremitsis' class devotes four Monday afternoons to walks in distinct parts of San Francisco. Along the way Keremitsis will share survivors' diary entries, letters and oral histories as well as photographs of the city both in ruins and in the early steps of physical recovery.

"For our first class we'll begin south of Market and follow the path of the fire as far as Union Square and consider the fire's path through the Mission District," Keremitsis said. "Survivors moved from day to day westward through the burning city. With the fire literally at their heels, many San Franciscans thought that the city would burn all the way to the coast!"

At the site of the ruins of City Hall, the block the Asian Art Museum now occupies, Keremitsis will present materials that tell the story of San Francisco's then-corrupt government and the graft trials that the quake pre-empted. The class will also visit the Presidio tol explore the Army's role and view an exhibit about one of the refugee camps that dominated the Western landscape of San Francisco. For the final class session, students will wander through a neighborhood of their choice.

"Like the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, some left their city never to return while others remained," Keremitsis said. "Two years after the quake and fires, some were still living in tents in refugee camps."

Keremitsis, who has a doctorate in history from Columbia University and is the author of the book "Life in a California Mission," has scoured materials from public and private archives throughout the Bay Area to share with her class.

"I'm anxious that this come alive for people," she said.

For more information about "Walking in San Francisco, 1906" or other classes at the College of Extended Learning's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, call (415) 405-7711 or visit the OLLI Web site.

-- Denize Springer
Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, J. Paul Leonard Library


San Francisco State University

Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified March 6, 2006 by University Communications