This survey of the 1906 Santa Rosa newspapers ends with 93 posts, 22 of them being chapters in a series on the great earthquake.
I intended to jet quickly past the quake with a handful of articles, assuming that so much already had been written that there was little to add. But as I carefully read the newspapers of the day, I found the true story was quite different - and often, far more interesting. For example, Santa Rosa was never under martial law, but there was a mini-crime wave on the morning of the earthquake, as scoundrels took advantage of the confusion to steal belongings that residents were moving out to their lawns. There was also a colorful con man who posed as a doctor to steal from the injured and the nurses.
Then there's the question of how many were killed; even at the time, the count swung between 69 and 77. It's now possible to say that there were at least 76 casualties, but the true number must be far higher - a credible source later wrote that the coroner didn't even see all the bodies. Consider also that most of the dead were found in the hotels and rooming houses that collapsed and burned; yet although most rooms were occupied, about 3 out of 4 people on the casualty list were locals. Either Santa Rosans had the world's worst luck that morning, or a great many out-of-towners quickly fled homewards with critical injuries.
There were other surprising discoveries - particularly concerning the town's shameful misuse of food donations and relief fund - but the single most important insight I gained was that the disaster didn't transport Santa Rosa into the 20th century, but instead thwarted reforms and meaningful progress, entrenching its 19th Century ways.
There's still much we don't know about events following the earthquake, but I'm passing the baton to someone else. I'd particularly like to thank Larry Lapeere for allowing me to reproduce images from his amazing collection, Terry Oden for his pioneering research into casualties, and Lynn Prime at the SSU library for help with materials in the LeBaron Collection. I'm also grateful that Google Books has made available court documents containing first-hand accounts of what happened that awful day.
Per the Oates in 1906, Wyatt made sure he had a ringside seat when Santa Rosa created a business shantytown that became the city hall and civic center for the next sixteen months, then at the end of the year he became chairman of the committee that decided the fate of the controversial relief fund. The couple's social standing seemed to climb to even a higher pinnacle, if that were possible; Wyatt hosted a lunch at the house for the Masonic Grand Master of California a month after the quake and late in the year, Mattie hosted a meeting for the president of the State Federation of Women's Clubs. Of future interest is that the Oates spent a week in September at the West County ranch of Charles Rule, a close friend who would become one of the executors of his estate. The Rule family is buried in the Rural Cemetery plot that is also believed to hold the graves of the Oates family.
In the waning days of 1906, Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley penned his traditional sunny annual report on the state of Santa Rosa, which might seem like quite a trick, given that the city had experienced one of the worst natural disasters in American history and four of his own employees were killed, most of them children who delivered his papers. But keeping with the PR guidelines promoted by business interests such as the newly-created Chamber of Commerce, mention of any deaths, injuries, even the earthquake itself were studiously avoided. Instead, Finley vowed that there were "great prospects of [a] golden future" which "should be the grandest and best in the history of Santa Rosa and old Sonoma county."
LIGHT AND SHADOW IN YEAR 1906 IN SANTA ROSA
Great Progress of City Since The Disaster
New Year Opens Up With Great Prospects of Golden Future for City and Sonoma County
At the close of each year it has been the custom of the Press Democrat to call attention to the notable improvements that have been carried out in town and country during the year.
With the passing of old 1906 will end one of the history making years of the age in Santa Rosa and elsewhere. Santa Rosa was hard hit in the terrible disaster of April 18, when in thirty-eight seconds the work of man of half a century in the upbuilding of a city here was destroyed, and the attractive business section of the town went down.
While the sad tale of April 18, 1906, must always stand out prominently in the minds of everybody here, yet concurrently with it must run the brighter story of the city's rebuilding. In the few brief months intervening between last April and the close of the year the scene of desolation marking the path of tremblor and fire has vanished and magnificent business blocks more attractive and substantial than ever adorn the city's thoroughfares, some of them completed and occupied, others nearly so, while for other structures the foundations are being laid. The rebuilding of Santa Rosa calls forth the admiration of everybody who comes here, expecting to see the City of Roses barely recovered from the effects of the April disaster. And right on through the new year the rehabilitation of the city will continue and all being well by this time next year the story of Santa Rosa's progress will be grander and even more conspicuous.
Saturday a Press Democrat representative visited the office of Building Inspector Cherry and inquired the value of the buildings specified in the permits granted by the City Council since last May. The result of the inquiry was almost amazing. The estimates figure almost a million dollars. These figures do not simply represent the replacing of buildings destroyed, but any number of new residences have been built.
Santa Rosa has grown in population during the year about to close. During the year and within the past two months the enrollment of children in the schools of the city reached the highest notch in the history of the district and the reports of the city superintendent have shown that the growth has been mainly on account of new families moving here from different parts of the state, and from other states. If a census was taken of the population of Santa Rosa at the present time it would be shown that it is bigger than ever.
During the year, carrying out the purpose of the municipal bond election, several miles of additional water and sewer mains have been laid, a new sewer farm bought and other municipal improvements carried out. The year also marks the first step taken towards the widening of public thoroughfares. It might also be recalled that in 1906 the new city charter went into operation.
Standing out prominently among the enlarging of the city's business interests during the year, might be mentioned the erection of the new $100,000 ice making and cold storage plant on Sebastopol avenue by the National Ice Company; the opening of a large creamery by Grace Brothers; the enlarging of the great cannery by the erection of an immense warehouse; the enlarging of the capacity of the woolen mills, etc. Space will not permit a review in extenso. Attention might also be called to the enlarging of the school building facilities to accommodate more children.
All the cities and towns in the county have enjoyed progress during the twelve months...Another important incident of the year since last April is the voting of $280,000 bonds for the reconstruction of the new Courthouse and county buildings. Work on the new building will commence during the coming year, which should be the grandest and best in the history of Santa Rosa and old Sonoma county.- Press Democrat, December 30, 1906
Colonel and Mrs. James W. Oates, accompanied by Mrs. Solomon and their guest Miss Annie May Bell, will spend this week at the Rule ranch near Duncan's, the guests of Mrs. Chas. Rule.- Press Democrat, September 9, 1906
Mrs. Robert P. Hill, president of the State Federation of Women's Clubs will address the Saturday Afternoon Club on the subject of "Club Federation," Saturday afternoon, January 5. Tea will be served after the address, and Mrs. Hill will be the guest of honor. Mrs. James W. Oates has kindly offered her home for the occasion.- Press Democrat, December 30, 1906
In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, generous Americans everywhere opened their wallets to help Santa Rosa, many likely spurred to action after reading the wildly inaccurate stories that appeared in the national press during the first days after the disaster, claiming the town was completely wiped out with many hundreds dead and the shelterless survivors huddled together in the Rincoon [sic] hills.
The Los Angeles Times donated $10,000, as did Standard Oil; the mayor of Sherman, Texas chipped in a hundred bucks, as did a bank in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The money piled up quickly. In the first two weeks nearly $31,000 had been donated, with over $44,000 given before a full month had passed. The Santa Rosa earthquake relief fund had found swift current in the Money River.
But few knew at the time that Santa Rosa was liberally dipping into the fund for everything except humanitarian aid. Only about $2,000 had been dispersed to the needy, while over five times as much was paid out to workers cleaning up earthquake debris. As year end neared, the donation total was over $60,000 - an enormous bankroll for the day - with about forty thousand still in the bank, unspent.
The town's stingy attitude with donated cash mirrored exactly the food relief debacle, where Santa Rosa shut down the soup kitchens 17 days after the quake except for aid to "widows, orphans and the sick," deciding it was better instead to hoard tons of donated food in a warehouse.
Except for a small item in the Santa Rosa Republican five weeks after the quake ("These funds are used in relieving all cases of distress that the committee discover..."), there was little mention of the relief fund in the papers. That is, until the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when the fund hit the fan.
The editorial that appeared in the Nov. 25 Press Democrat has to win some sort of award for heartlessness. There was hardly any harm done in Santa Rosa except that a few buildings in the business district came down, editor Ernest L. Finley opined. The dead were now buried, people were back at work, and no one in town was suffering:
...Naturally the first thought is that it should be expended as the donors intended--for the relief of those in distress and to reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity. But there is no distress...Everybody who will work is working, has been working and can continue to work as long as he chooses, and for that work receive the very topmost wage. So the fact of the matter is that, with hardly any exceptions, those who suffered injury are in no need of assistance and those who suffered not at all are really better off than they ever were before...
Finley also remarked that most of the money in the fund "was subscribed through a misapprehension as to the facts" due to those wacky early wire stories - more the fools, they, for believing Santa Rosa really needed help. Given that everything's so swell, Finley asked: What should we now do with our lovely windfall?
It was a straw man posit, knocked down a week later by our (anti)-hero, James Wyatt Oates. All that money was sent to aid Santa Rosa:, he argued: "I [cannot] see how it can be considered in any sense an indigent relief fund. It was sent here to meet a present emergency and if it can't be use for that it should be returned to those who sent it." Because "there are not enough personal necessities resulting from the earthquake to absorb all of it," Oates concluded, Santa Rosa should either refund the donations or turn it into a building fund.
A vigorous debate about the fund followed in both newspapers. Santa Rosa Republican letter-writer "G" - probably county historian Tom Gregory, judging by the wit in the writing - asked, "If almost $10,000 could be spent for clearing the brickbats from Fourth street, why cannot $10,000 be taken from the surplus of $40,000 for individual relief?"
...While the committee doubtless has tried to be careful in the distribution to individuals, it has apparently gone to the other extreme and almost niggardliness has characterized its actions. This is not by any means an unpardonable sin, but would it not be well to unloosen a little and do a little actual relieving. The time has long gone by when a piece of bacon, a paper bag of flour, a loaf of bread for a family of five, or a pair of second hand shoes was relief. The food and the "old clo" question has been settled. Five thousand dollars--actual cash--should now be in the hands of those who lost legs, lost all or a part of homes, lost the bread winners of families. Doctor bills (doctors are always on the suffering list) could be paid, taxes (Lord knows they are calculated to make everybody suffer) could be paid, dwellings could be repaired for those who are yet living in shattered houses...
Another letter to the Republican pointed out that the town was mostly using the money to provide downtown property owners with free labor: "The land owners have been benefited by a goodly share of the money expended -- almost one-half -- over $9000, and the value of their property has been vastly enhanced by the removal of the debris which we are glad to be rid of at any price, but there are others."
Ever Scrooge-like, editor of the Press Democrat Ernest Finley penned a long editorial that argued that those injured or survivors of those killed didn't deserve anything more from the fund: "Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster."
The back-and-forth continued for a week, and the transcriptions below are well worth reading (not every editorial and letter is included here, but all points are mentioned). Finley became increasingly isolated in his position, reduced to splitting hairs over the definition of "distress" before slamming shut the door by declaring "no more communications dealing with the subject will be published in these columns" - but not until after publishing one final letter urging Santa Rosa to "borrow" the relief fund to pay for a new city hall.
But Republican editor Allen B. Lemmon had actually won the debate several days before:
...Consider the widow whose husband was killed trying to save others and who has a half dozen children to be supported. Who will say that less than five thousand dollars of that fund belongs to her and should be placed in her hands.
Suppose $2500 each were handed to the two women who lost a leg each on that eventful 18th April. Is this any more than their due? Will it make beggars of them to receive this money? Let those who think so stand up and give the people opportunity to look at them.
There is the lady who was in business here and is likely to be an invalid all her days from injuries sustained by the earthquake. Considering the condition of the relief fund on hand, who will say that she should receive less than $2500 to $4000, not as charity, but as her due.
That widow with the six youngsters was Mrs. Milo Fish, whose late husband was the Press Democrat printer fatally injured in the newspaper building's collapse. Mrs. Fish was now working at the paper, learning to be a printer herself. With a diplomat's tact, Lemmon cut to the cold heart of Finley's argument: Was he saying that even this member of the Press Democrat's business family was undeserving of one cent of the money donated to help relieve suffering?
The fight was over. A week before Christmas, a new relief committee was named, including the mayor, editors of both newspapers, and two ministers. Chairman was James W. Oates. Then about a month later, the City Council accepted their recommendations, dispersing nearly all of the remaining fund to 99 individuals. (Some people are recognizable as family members of those killed, but most recipients had no earthquake-related injury reported in the newspapers. Researchers seeking further earthquake casualties would do well to closely examine obits and other records for everyone on this list. Click on image to enlarge.)
Awards were not explained, but ranged from $25 to $3,000. The top recipient was the woman who Lemmon described as "likely to be an invalid all her days:" Julia Hessel, who with her husband had owned the Elite Millinery shop at 515 Fourth Street. (Following the quake, the Democrat-Republican broadsheet had reported "Mrs. J. P. Hessel's injuries are regarded as fatal. Her hip is crushed, and she sustained internal injuries.")
Second on the list, with $2,500, was Mrs. Nellie F. Fish. Not another word critical of using the fund for charitable purposes appeared in the Press Democrat.
(Looking north from Third Street (the fallen courthouse is out of view to the left). In the foreground is the Hall of Records at the corner of Hinton and 3rd. In the background is the Southern Methodist Church at 5th and Orchard, which was the command center for relief operations after the earthquake. The church was built shortly after the Civil War and can prominently be seen in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Detail of photograph courtesy Larry Lapeere)
CASH IS NEEDED BY SANTA ROSA
Sonoma County Town Badly Pressed as Result of Disaster.
Wants Coin to Carry on the Work of Reconstruction.
SANTA ROSA, May 12--There are now about 500 refugees in Santa Rosa from San Francisco and more are arriving almost daily. The question of feeding and caring for these people will soon have to be faced by the city, as there is little outside aid being received here. The promise of $15,000 assistance from the San Francisco relief funds, made soon after the earthquake, has been reduced to $5000, owing to the inability of the relief committee in San Francisco to secure any part of the Congressional appropriations.
The heavy additional expense saddled upon this little city for extra police, sewer work, cleaning streets, removing debris, repairing water system [sic], inspecting chimneys and buildings and the replacing of destroyed property, taken in conjunction with the fact that the assessment roll has been reduced several million dollars, makes the question of finances a grave one.
The work of clearing the debris is proceeding rapidly, and already several burned out property-owners have begun the construction of temporary structures on the site of the old buildings. On all the side streets leading to the burned portion of the city numerous one-story frame buildings are being erected for temporary use as stores. This gives the city the appearance of a mining camp of the days of '49.
The total amount of cash contributions to the city's relief to date is $44,186.97, including the $5000 from San Francisco. This will not pay one-third of the expense incurred in clearing the streets.- San Francisco Call, May 13, 1906
THOSE RELIEF FUNDS
The Republican is in receipt of several inquiries in regard to the relief funds in this city, who holds them, how they are held, how used, etc.
The funds are in the hands of the treasurer of the relief committee, Mr. James R. Edwards. They are not deposited in any bank as a part of its funds, but are kept in a box in the safe deposit of the Savings Banks of Santa Rosa. It shows a nice sense of honor on the part of Mr. Edwards and Mayor Overton that they are thus held. Any and all of these funds are thus available any moment they may be demanded.
These funds are used in relieving all cases of distress that the committee discover. There may be cases about which there is a difference of opinion. There have been efforts on the part of some people to impose on the committee and the committee may have made some mistakes, but we have every reason to believe that its members are trying to get at the facts and do what is right in the premises [sic].
It is a good use of some of these funds to give employment to men who would otherwise be idle and have to receive this money as charity. It would be a good use of others of these funds to pay the taxes on the little homes of the destitute in our midst. Such people should be searched out and aided. Often the most deserving are the slowest to ask for assistance.
There should be no undue haste in getting rid of these funds. They should be expended as needed and not otherwise. There will be need of them when building operations are slack next winter and there is little work doing on the farms. There may be occasional legitimate calls for help a year or two hence and it will be well if there are funds on hand to meet such demands.- Santa Rosa Republican, May 24, 1906
SANTA ROSA'S RELIEF FUND
The proper disposition of that portion of the relief fund still remaining on hand is a question now confronting the authorities, and it will have to be admitted that the problem is a difficult one to solve. Something like sixty thousand dollars was subscribed to relieve the great distress believed to have been occasioned here by the recent disaster. A vast quantity of food and clothing was also sent in by generous and noble-minded persons from all parts of the country. The food was, in the main, speedily distributed where it would do the most good. Most of the clothing was also put to good use, although a considerable supply still remains on hand, carefully packed and ready to be given out during the winter if occasion should require it. Approximately twenty thousand dollars of the money sent in has been expended in the proper and legitimate relief of distress, and something like forty thousand dollars yet remains on hand. What to do with it its a question [sic].
Naturally the first thought is that it should be expended as the donors intended--for the relief of those in distress and to reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity. But there is no distress. And the greater part of the loss fell upon those who were in a position to stand it--or, if not, are now fully able to look out for themselves and feel neither the need nor the inclination of becoming objects of charity. In San Francisco thousands of poor people lost their homes. Here they did not. The property destroyed in Santa Rosa was business property--brick and stone buildings owned for the most part by corporations and persons of means. The fire spread and burned a few residences, but probably not more than half a dozen altogether, and on most of these full insurance has since been paid. Those who owned homes before the shake have have them still, if we except two or three improperly constructed dwellings that were so badly shaken that they had to be torn down. Practically all of the merchants who lost their stock of goods have since re-established themselves in business. For a brief time many persons were thrown out of employment; but individual contributions, relief from fraternal organizations, affiliated labor unions, etc., made up this loss to a very great extent, and since that time there has been more work at better wages for those who labor with their hands than ever before in all the history of the city. Everybody who will work is working, has been working and can continue to work as long as he chooses, and for that work receive the very topmost wage. So the fact of the matter is that, with hardly any exceptions, those who suffered injury are in no need of assistance and those who suffered not at all are really better off than they ever were before. There is a better demand for their labor, and there will continue to be for a long time to come.
To put the matter plainly, most of the money subscribed for the relief of Santa Rosa was subscribed through a misapprehension as to the facts. It was reported, and the story was published all over the world, that ten thousand people were homeless, and more than a thousand killed. Naturally the first impulse of every generous-minded person was to put his hand in his pocket and give something to relieve the awful distress bound to result from such conditions. But the report was not correct. Sixty-nine people were killed, it is true; but they have all long since been given proper burial, and as far as we are aware there is no instance where assistance is more or less generous measure has not been extended to those dependent upon the victims wherever such seemed called for or would be accepted. It is probable that more might be done in this line. It is also possible that some additional opportunities for legitimate assistance may yet develop. But even so, this would not begin to use up all the residue of the relief fund yet remaining on hand. And what is the best disposition to make of this residue? There is no way to send it back and insure its reaching the thousands of persons who subscribed it. What shall we do with our relief fund. That is a question and one that appears to grow more difficult to solve each time it is given serious consideration.- Press Democrat, November 25, 1906
THOSE RELIEF FUNDS
Editor Press Democrat: It strikes me that most of those who have expressed themselves as to the disposition of the Relief Fund now on hand, take much narrower views than the facts would justify, while some are downright illogical.
One, for instance, taking a narrow view of the spirit of the donation, denies that we may use any of the fund for other than mere cases at least smacking of indigency, and advocates holding the fund till there is some great disaster somewhere else, and then donating it there.
It is difficult to see how, in that event, we would have the right to use this fund as our donation to another place. It certainly was not sent here with any idea if creating a future general relief fund. Nor can I see how it can be considered in any sense an indigent relief fund. It was sent here to meet a present emergency and if it can't be use for that it should be returned to those who sent it.
I deny emphatically that all cases for which it was intended have been supplied. And I deny that it was sent here with any idea of indigency in it, or in its application. I would not do the generous donors the injustice to attribute to them so narrow a spirit. That money was sent here to help meet the pressing losses from the earthquake and no doubt it was intended that every dollar of it be used for our people in such manner as the authorities should determine to best relieve the hardships of that catastrophe. And I am in favor of so using it. There are many cases here in this city where people suffered losses who could ill afford it, and many are restricted in their living conditions by reason of it. These cases should be relieved from this fund. In my opinion the Council has been too narrow in applying this fund. They have apparently drawn the line as nearly as they could at indigency, and, as I have said, this is not in harmony with the spirit of the donation.
This city as a city has lost heavily. Her buildings were destroyed, and we have no money on hand with which to rebuild. It is all well enough to feel a great pride in the town and to wish to rebuild without assistance. But when we remember that this means higher taxes, falling largely on those who lost most heavily, and who to rebuild, in many instances, have had to borrow money and incur debt, it presents another question. What between the interest on the one hand and higher taxes on the other, the man who is trying to restore the town, will have no merry time.
If the narrow view of the spirit of this donation prevails we can not use any of this fund for city purposes. But if the other view is correct, then we can and should do so. To my mind there is no question but that the spirit of the donation amply covers just such a use of enough of that fund for such purposes, provided, however, there are not enough personal necessities resulting from the earthquake to absorb all of it.
But be all this as it may, it is clear to my mind that nothing can be gained by this discussion; that the Council should determine for what uses it can properly apply the fund, then go ahead and so dispose of it, and either use it or send it back to those who sent it to us, and this should be done without delay and without making a "blowing horn" of the matter.
James W. Oates, Santa Rosa, Dec. 1st.- Press Democrat, December 4, 1906
WILL TRANSFER RELIEF FUNDS TO DEPOSITORY
The city council discussed in an informal manner the disposition of the relief fund which is on hand in this city. On motion of Councilman Reynolds the sum of $37,145.65, which has been in the hands of James R. Edwards, treasurer of the committee, since it was received, will be transferred to the city depository...
...Reynolds suggested that the money was going out pretty rapidly, and that a considerable sum had already been distributed. He suggested the removal of the clothing and provisions to a location down town, where the people could secure them more conveniently.
This may be done.
John L. Jordan addressed the council saying he knew a number of children who would be glad of some of the garments that are now piled away securely in the warehouse.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 5, 1906
ANOTHER CORRESPONDENT DISCUSSES RELIEF FUNDS
Editor Republican: The relief fund question appears to be getting down out of the air and onto something of a substantial basis. Mr. W. E. McConnell struck the key note and Mr. J. W. Oates played well upon it in their published letters. The first writer suggested that the real sufferer of the earthquake and fire be hunted up and relief be extended to them, and the second gentlemen advocated the same method of putting the money where it would do practical good. In round numbers $60,000 was received here for relief and practically only a small amount of that grand sum has been given individuals who lost limbs, houses, and other property in the disaster. Looking over the printed report of the relief committee we read, "Special police, $764; inspecting chimneys and sewers, $545; picks, axes and shovels, $517; repair of water leaks, $175; carrying water, $70, temporary quarters for city officials (by what authority did the City of Santa Rosa pay for the housing of her officials out of the relief fund?) $169; paid for labor unloading cars, $783; cleaning and hauling debris from streets, $9241.
I am not disposed to find fault with the list of expenditures, as many of these dollars were worthily handed out, but it may be seen that in many instances the committee gave freely--quite freely. Did the same liberality generally govern the relief extended individuals. Mr. Oates writes around that point when he says that it is not necessary for the suffer to be a beggar for the actual necessaries of life before he or she is a fit subject for help. While the committee doubtless has tried to be careful in the distribution to individuals, it has apparently gone to the other extreme and almost niggardliness has characterized its actions. This is not by any means an unpardonable sin, but would it not be well to unloosen a little and do a little actual relieving. The time has long gone by when a piece of bacon, a paper bag of flour, a loaf of bread for a family of five, or a pair of second hand shoes was relief. The food and the "old clo" question has been settled. Five thousand dollars--actual cash--should now be in the hands of those who lost legs, lost all or a part of homes, lost the bread winners of families. Doctor bills (doctors are always on the suffering list) could be paid, taxes (Lord knows they are calculated to make everybody suffer) could be paid, dwellings could be repaired for those who are yet living in shattered houses. "A little seeking would soon find a place for that five thou', I imagine. If almost $10,000 could be spent for clearing the brickbats from Fourth street, why cannot $10,000 be taken from the surplus of $40,000 for individual relief?
That coin cannot be returned pro rata to the actual givers. In the case of the large sums it could be done, doubtless, but what of the small contributors--the generous people who handed their respective relief committees $1, $10, and $5 pieces with "no name attached? Charity is not strained and often not named. Would it be fair that these should miss the return of their contribution? The idea is not practical nor practicable. At least, let us finish the work of hunting up the earthquake sufferers of Santa Rosa before we talk of hunting up the contributors of Omaha, Chicago or New York who sent us their Donations.
G.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 5, 1906
ANOTHER STORY ABOUT THE RELIEF FUND
Editor Santa Rosa Republican: It is almost amusing to read some of the suggestions for disposal of that much discussed but seemingly immovable, relief fund; that fund which could make glad the hearts of many who have been depressed and disheartened by losses paralyzing by their extent and completeness; that fund which lies idle in the bank...I have not heard of any judge in the state of California who has been deprived of any part of his salary by reason of the nearly two months of legal holidays following the earthquake; neither have I heard or read that any salaries paid during that time to the judges have been returned to the treasury. Neither should the salaries have been returned; the judges were entitled to them under the law, but they should be a little more sympathetic toward those who lost everything, business as well as property, and had no fat salaries to fall back upon.
...[S]omething special [must] be done for those permanently disabled. In addition to what has already been one, is most timely. Nurse hire at the Santa Rosa Hospital, supplies, medicines, etc.,. furnished the same hospital for the injured aggregate an expenditure of $1215.63, while cash relief on account of injuries amounts to $2020.60, making a total of $3236.23 to date of report. Surely there are sufficient funds in the bank to enable the committee to give substantial aid to permanently disabled and suffering ones, and still have something for those who are sadly crippled by financial loss.
Why should repairs of water leaks, repairs of fire alarm system and temporary headquarters for city officials be paid from the relief funds? Is not the city able to pay those bills? City taxes are certainly pretty high this year.
J. Edgar Ross wants the fund to be distributed among the banks to draw interest, and eventually be sent to other sufferers. How does he know the money would ever reach those mythical sufferers? Probably their relief committees would find it as hard to distribute the money as others have.
The land owners have been benefited by a goodly share of the money expended -- almost one-half -- over $9000, and the value of their property has been vastly enhanced by the removal of the debris which we are glad to be rid of at any price, but there are others.
Some say, "Give the workman his tools and implements of labor if they were lost in the fire;" so say we all -- but what tools are more vitally necessary than the instruments and libraries of the physicians and surgeons and of the dentists, and the valuable law libraries of the attorneys? No one need accept help against his will.
It hardly seems possible that the Standard Oil Company is wanting its contribution of $10,000 back again, nor are other contributors any more likely to be "Injun givers," so why these terrible scruples by those who lost nothing? Those who have been crippled, either physically or financially by the earthquake and fire, or either, are not objects of charity; they have a right to help from the fund which is theirs, and when, by the timely help given them, they become prosperous again, it will be their sacred duty, as well as their dearest pleasure, to extend aid and comfort to needy sufferers wherever they may be. Try them and see.
C. T. J.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 6, 1906
...Mention has been made of the fact that part of the relief fund was paid out for cleaning up debris. The purpose was to give employment to those who needed it. And the committee's books show that when this was done and people were put in a way to take care of themselves the appeals for relief were materially reduced--almost enough, in fact, to offset the amount paid out in the form of wages for having this very necessary work done.
An inspection of the books kept by the committee reveals some interesting facts--and, we opine, some facts for which the public is hardly prepared. For instance, every person we remember to have heard mentioned so far as being possibly entitled to assistance has already been helped and in a manner that bespeaks anything but an illiberal spirit upon the part of the committee. The committee has not cared to issue any detailed statement making public names and amounts, for some people are sensitive about such matters, but the books show that as much as four and five hundred dollars have been paid to some of the sufferers and supplies issued to them besides. Not all have received this much, of course, but we have as yet been unable to ascertain a single instance in which assistance has been withheld when it appeared to be deserved. In one instance a woman engaged in business and injured in the shake was presented with a sum equal to that originally invested in the business, in addition to which her doctor bills were also paid in full. In the case of a certain widow whose home was wrecked by falling chimneys, etc., the sum of $150 was expended in putting the place back in as good shape as it was before the catastrophe. Scores of cases such as these might be mentioned if time and space permitted. And in most cases the committee has not waited to be asked to render assistance, but has tendered it voluntarily and in the broad spirit which should properly govern such cases...
...Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster. Money contributed under such circumstances as those attending the catastrophe of April 18 is invariably subscribed with the idea of relieving actual distress--burying the dead, caring for the injured, feeding the hungry, clothing those unable to procure proper covering, and, after all this has been done, starting and assisting in the work of rehabilitation. If any of our readers feel inclined to take issue with this statement let them ask themselves how much money would have been sent in if the word had gone out that although a catastrophe had occurred here and great damage had been done, our people were fully able to handle the situation, and to take care of themselves. The money was sent because our people were believed to be helpless.
There is only one course to pursue with reference to the relief funds now remaining on hand, in our opinion. That is to distribute a reasonable portion of the money to those injured or damaged to such an extent that they are now unable to properly care for themselves, retain which seems likely to be needed to meet further requirements, and, if there is anything left after doing this, put it aside in the form of a permanent relief fund to be used either here or somewhere else in the event of another calamity, as occasion may suggest.
As far as the clothing and supplies are concerned, they will doubtless all be disposed of before the winter is over, and without any hullabaloo either.- Press Democrat editorials, December 7, 1906
On Sunday morning, November 25th, the Press Democrat discussed the relief fund remaining in this city and asked what should be done with it. After remarking that at first thought it would seem the relief fund should be expended as the donors intended, "for the relief of those in distress and in reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity" our contemporary declares, "but there is no distress." In the same article the morning paper referred to the matter of receiving aid by certain persons that they "feel neither the need nor the inclination of becoming objects of charity," clearly inferring that those receiving relief funds are objects of charity. Also, it was alleged that the fire burned "probably not more than half a dozen residences, on most of which full insurance has since been paid, and that only two or three improperly constructed residences were so badly shaken that they had to be taken down." The intent of the article was clearly to convey the impression that relief work here was practically closed and that some disposition outside of relief should be made of the funds on hand.
This Friday morning the Press Democrat has another editor--one who did not know or remember what the paper published editorially on this subject a couple of weeks ago. It is now announced that the committee is actually paying out $500 per week. Two weeks ago that paper stated that there was "something like" forty thousand dollars in the relief fund and now it puts the fund at only thirty-five thousand dollars--indication that places have been found recently to put some of these funds.
In the last article our contemporary declares "Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster."
This is certainly a very narrow view to take of this matter. It is not the view of the people who sent the money to this city. It appears to us to be the view of such people as regard relief funds as charity funds. These funds were sent here for the earthquake and fire sufferers. They are not the funds of the self-constituted committee having charge of them and who stand in the way of a large number of people here getting what they are entitled to, what was sent here to be used by them.
Consider the widow whose husband was killed trying to save others and who has a half dozen children to be supported. Who will say that less than five thousand dollars of that fund belongs to her and should be placed in her hands.
Suppose $2500 each were handed to the two women who lost a leg each on that eventful 18th April. Is this any more than their due? Will it make beggars of them to receive this money? Let those who think so stand up and give the people opportunity to look at them.
There is the lady who was in business here and is likely to be an invalid all her days from injuries sustained by the earthquake. Considering the condition of the relief fund on hand, who will say that she should receive less than $2500 to $4000, not as charity, but as her due.
There are several others who might be named and the relief committee should hunt them out and give them as they deserve.
Regarding the residences seriously damaged by the trembler, instead of being but two or three of them, there were many times that number. After personal injuries are provided for liberally, something should be done for those who lost their homes--not as charity, but as their due.
Gentlemen of the relief committee, quit thinking that it is your duty to stand as with bludgeons in your hand to prevent people getting their due in this matter. Do not be misled by any newspaper as to your duty in the premises. Be as liberal in the distribution of this fund as were the people who sent it here. If you show such liberality the funds on hand will soon be distributed to those who are entitled to them.- Santa Rosa Republican editorial, December 7, 1906
A CASE FOR INSTANT RELIEF
Editor Republican: Here is a good chance for the use of some of that surplus relief money. An elderly woman who lost a foot when her brick wall fell on her April 18th is in more trouble. Yesterday an attachment was levied on her household furniture--all that remained after the fire and earthquake--and in a few days in all probability she will be sold out of what is left of her home. I will not here mention her name, but the relief fund people can learn who she is. The claim against her is only a few hundred dollars, and surely out of that $38,000 this trifling amount can be wiped away. This unfortunate woman is almost helpless, and hers is a case demanding instant relief.
CITIZEN- Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906
JUDGE BURNETT SPEAKS
Editor Republican: I would like to add just a word of explanation.
My suggestion in regard to the relief fund was based upon the statement of a local paper to the effect that the distress occasioned by the earthquake and fire has been relieved. If representations made since are credible--and I have no reason to doubt it--the assumption upon which I based my recommendation is not supported by the facts in the case.
There seems yet to be a great deal of distress and if the money was not contributed for its relief, I cannot conceive what object the donors had in view. I heartily concur in Mr. McConnell's presentation of the matter. I trust that I have as much sympathy as any one for the unfortunate.
ALBERT G. BURNETT.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906
Our frequently hysterical and not always well-balanced evening contemporary now tries to make it appear that in its reference of relief fund matters The Press Democrat has been inconsistent. Judge Burnett, in reversing himself on the matter of returning the unused funds to the donors, also attempts to pass something of the kind up to this paper upon the grounds that we declared that "the DISTRESS occasioned by the earthquake and fire had been relieved."
We did so declare, in a general sense; and we declare so still. In the article referred to by Judge Burnett and The Republican we expressly state, however, that in all probability more might very properly be done in the way of extending additional aid to those who had already been assisted. Also referring to the assistance that had been extended those dependent upon the unfortunates who lost their lives in the disaster, we said: "It is probable that more might also be done in this line."
It all depends upon the interpretation put upon the word "distress." Our position is and from the first has been that there is but one meaning to the word, and that the money contributed was, strictly speaking, sent here with the idea of relieving distress rather than for the purpose of making up the shortage in some man's insurance, helping another to reconstruct his brick block, or paying for the rebuilding of somebody's chimney--unless, of course, he is unable to do it himself. But some, it would appear, think differently.
The Republican charges us with attempting to influence the course of the committee. It is difficult to see how this could be true, when our position all along has been that the committee is and has been doing good work, should be let alone, and is entitled to the support rather than the criticism of the public. It is The Republican that has been trying to dictate to the committee what it should do. This paper has taken a directly opposite course.
And so far we have not heard that the attitude of the committee has been materially changed by the comments of the local press. The members of that body appear to have gone calmly or doing what they thought was best and extending whatever aid they could, regardless of what has been said, just as they have been doing ever since the morning of the disaster. So far they do not appear to have felt called upon to make any reply to the criticisms offered, and it might be proper to state here that in expressing itself on the situation. The Press Democrat has neither consulted with nor been influenced in the slightest by that body or any of its members. After making a few investigations of our own accord we were forced to the conclusion that most of the censure being directed toward the committee was undeserved. And being of that opinion we said so, giving our reasons for so thinking. Whatever the disposition of the remaining funds made by the committee, we are inclined to believe that it will be fair and liberal, and satisfactory to the majority of the members of the community.- Press Democrat editorials, December 8, 1906
THE RELIEF FUNDSEditor Press Democrat: I read with great interest a few inquiries and views of some of our people as to what to do, and what should be done with the money received for the relief of those who suffered...could not a very few men soon pick out the ones in Santa Rosa who are in need of this money, who have been thrown out of business for months and some entirely. Now, this was sent for their relief. Why not give it to them? ...the generous people of Santa Rosa suffered more loss than all the money sent to the City of Roses will amount to. So how would it do to begin to hand out the balance of the money in the bank to those for whom it was originally intended.
J. L. Byers- Press Democrat, December 8, 1906
When our morning contemporary has exhausted its argument in a controversy and find itself beaten at all points, one of its old tricks is to throw up its hands and shout, "politics." In the discussion concerning the relief funds nearly all the writing has been done by Democrats, but they and all others are now invited to keep their letters away from the Press Democrat office. That paper publishes today a column from Judge John Tyler Campbell in favor of the city "borrowing" relief funds with which to build a city hall and at the same time declares "no more communications dealing with the subject will be published in these columns.""BORROWING" THE FUNDSHon. John Tyler Campbell contributes a lengthy article to the Press Democrat in favor of the city "borrowing" a considerable sum of money from the relief funds for use in building a city hall. He proposes to have the money repaid by taxation at some future date. It will be time enough to discuss this project after the relief and deal liberally with all the fire and earthquake sufferers.
Mr. Campbell puts up a peculiar and rather ingenious plea to the effect that the burden of building a city hall here will fall upon the laboring people of the city. He tells us the merchants add the taxes they pay to the price of the goods they sell and that rents are determined on the same basis.
But the position taken in untenable. Tax is but a small item in the general expense of business. It cuts but small figure in determining the price of goods or the rate of rents. In fact, it is so small a matter that it is seldom considered in reaching a basis of prices.
Take the matter of rents. It is not the will of the property owner that determines the amount he shall receive for the his of his building. Two parties are required in making a deal and both are largely controlled by existing conditions. Rents of business houses are higher here now than they were formerly because of the scarcity of such buildings and because they are being better built and costing more than was the case in the past...we are surprised at as intelligent a man as Judge Campbell taking so untenable a position.
The burden of building a city hall will fall most heavily upon the property owners here and not upon the laborers. The laborers will get the first direct benefit, regardless of the source from which the money comes.- Santa Rosa Republican editorials, December 11, 1906
COMMITTEE TO HANDLE RELIEF
Money to be Dispensed to Deserving Ones
The money in the Santa Rosa relief fund, amounting to nearly forty thousand dollars, is to be handled by a committee of citizens, to be appointed by Mayor John P. Overton. This matter was determined at the meeting f the city council Tuesday evening on suggestion of Mayor Overton. The chief executive stated that the council had sufficient work on its hands without going further into the relief work. The council, he said, had relieved the distress up to the present time, and the question of immediate wants having been solved, the best disposition of the funds was now of prime importance. He advocated the idea of a committee of seven, who would suggest the disposition of the funds and the amount to be given each individual case.
W. A. Bolton communicated with the council, entering a protest against putting up a city hall with the moneys sent here for relief. He also protested against the apportionment of the moneys to all persons who lost in the recent disaster.
H. M. Brace, chief of the subscription department of the San Francisco Relief and Red Cross Funds, asked the council for assistance in caring for the homeless and refugees in San Francisco. Mr. Brace reported that there were 12,000 people in the metropolis for for whom homes were being constructed, of which 6000 had been housed in complete structures. Five thousand people are being fed by the committee in Oakland and 1000 indigents were being card for at Ingleside. It was requested that the $5000 donated from the San Francisco relief funds to the relief of Santa Rosa sufferers be returned to the San Francisco committee.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 12, 1906
THE RELIEF COMMISSION
Investigation reveals the fact that under the resolution authorizing the appointment of the new Relief Commission that body is vested with no authority whatever, and is simply asked to look into the situation and relort on the best disposition to be made of the funds and supplies still remaining on hand...All the funds are in the city treasury, and it is not clear how any body of private citizens could legally disperse them. Then again, the Council having assumed responsibility in the matter could hardly be expected to pass the proposition over to others without knowing something of the policy likely to be adopted...- Press Democrat editorial, December 21, 1906
RELIEF COMMITTEE'S FINAL MEETING MONDAY
The relief committee having in charge the matter of passing on the claims growing out of the earthquake and fire in Santa Rosa, and the distribution of the relief moneys on hand, had a meeting Monday evening, which lasted until midnight.
Those present were...
The committee made distribution of nearly $12,000, which makes a total of $19,000 apportioned by the committee so far. They still have about $11,000 balance on hand with which to meet other claims against the funds. The distributions made have generally been for bodily injuries suffered.
The committee will meet again next Monday evening, and hopes to have its final session on that date. All persons who have claims against the fund that they wish the committee to consider are urged to have them on file before next Monday. The distributions are made subject to revision when all the claims have been filed.- Santa Rosa Republican, January 8, 1907
CITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RELIEF COMMITTEE REPORT
Orders Warrants Drawn As the Committee Recommended
At the meeting Friday the City Council paid the committee appointed to distribute the relief funds a high compliment. The council adopted the report of the committee without amendment or suggestion and ordered warrants drawn as recommended. The allotment of the funds was as follows:
[...]- Santa Rosa Republican, January 27, 1907
With the new Comstock House and Paxton House, Mendocino Avenue was becoming the architectural showcase of Santa Rosa before the 1906 earthquake, and the reputation was only improved by a house in the most modern style appearing just a couple of blocks away.
The home for the family of hop broker J. Edgar Clark was right on the cutting edge of Craftsman Style when it was built 1906-1907. Besides the usual Craftsman lower-pitched roof, exposed beams and wide porch, the house has unusually strong lines because many features are doubled-up, as if they were underlined for emphasis. There are two bargeboards under the eave separated by a false rafters, then further supported by offset false beams; the porch columns are open boxes, and the unusually wide, prominent foundation vents suggest windows. The Santa Rosa Republican called it "Swiss style" because of the second floor porch, but it was really more of a shallow Juliet balcony than a chalet's upper veranda.
The newspaper article also mentioned that the exterior was finished in Cabot creosote stain, something of an obsession of mine over at the sister blog, Restora Obscura, which explores turn-of-the-century materials. Here, it's a tip that the highest quality construction techniques were in use - many cheap knockoffs of Cabot's were available at the time.
In the 1908 photograph below, Bessie Clark stands on her balcony. The house was at 547 Mendocino Avenue, currently the location of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation's Glaser Center. Palm trees, by the way, were often planted between the sidewalk and curb during this era in Santa Rosa.
HANDSOME RESIDENCES FOR MENDOCINO AVE.
Work has been resumed on the residence of J. E. Clark on Mendocino avenue. The site is a choice lot purchased by the Mount Olivet hop grower of Dr. J. H. McLeod. The building is to be of the Swiss style of architecture, with huge rough beams and square columns, and boarded with select heavy inch siding, finished in Cabot creosote stain to bring out the natural grain of the wood and protect it from the weather. All foundations are to be of concrete. Three great brick chimneys with fireplaces will be surmounted by galvanized iron tops above the roof. There are to be seven rooms on the main floor, with halls, closets and bathroom conveniently arranged. The attic story will contain a billiard hall 25x37 feet, spacious storerooms and a balcony 8x12 fronting on the avenue. Dormer windows will furnish light for this story.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 6, 1906
Anyone inclined to wax nostalgic about turn-of-the-century Sonoma County, take note: Life back then could be rough, and the suicide rate was high. As elsewhere in the Bay Area, the number of suicides in Sonoma County dipped immediately following the earthquake of 1906, but come next year, the papers were again reporting that grandpa was reaching for the carbolic acid or braiding up a noose. Nor was there necessarily a higher regard for civility in the early 20th century; witness Santa Rosa's ongoing problem with people trying to kill dogs by throwing poisoned meat into their neighbor's yard.
Our ancestors doted on Fido and Fluffy as much as we do today, maybe more so; nearly the longest-running lawsuit here in the 1900s centered upon Queen, "a valuable varmint dog," and after she was killed in the earthquake, "the dog suit" became "the pup suit" as the fight shifted to ownership of her last litter. Yet incidents of dog poisoning were so common in that era that the Press Democrat usually reported then in 3-4 line page fillers. The articles transcribed below are unique only in the amount of detail provided.
(Right: Santa Rosa woman posing with cat on steps. Detail of photograph from the Larry Lapeere collection)
To be rigorously fair, it should be mentioned that there was no dog catcher at the time and the town was overrun with stray dogs, a situation that probably became worse after the earthquake. Also, there was a bubonic plague scare in early 1908, and residents were urged to clean up their yards and put out rat poison. Yet still, these articles clearly show that in each case, someone's intent was to specifically kill pets.
DASTARDLY ACT MAY COST THE LIFE OF SOME BABY
Dog Poisoner Drops Poisoned Meat in Yards
While accomplishing His Mean Work in Killing Canines the Guilty One May Become Responsible for Sacrifice of Human Life
Some miscreant, bent on poisoning dogs on Henley street and vicinity has been throwing poisoned sausage into the yards of houses, particularly on Henley street, and has succeeded in poisoning a number of dogs. Pieces of sausage have been picked up in which strychnine had been placed.
The man intent on dealing death to canines, reprehensible enough as that is, should remember that his act may cause the life of some innocent babe playing in the yards of the houses who might chance to pick up the poisoned morsel and unsuspectingly put it in its mouth. The police and citizens are trying to discover the guilty person, and if caught he will be punished severely.- Press Democrat, December 11, 1906
DOG POISONER KILLS A FINE ANIMAL
A fine collie, "Dollie Gray," owned by Mrs. Paul Coulter, was poisoned last night. The canine was only absent from the Coulter residence on Slater street a few minutes before it found the poison. The death of the dog, who was a general favorite with people in the vicinity, was the occasion of no little excitement, and if the person throwing out the poison had been caught in the act, well--there would have been something doing, judging from the opinions expressed.
It might be a hint to people, who in the bright rodent-killing days are using poison, to be careful to put "rough on rats" where it cannot be taken by dogs or possibly little children.
Mrs. Coulter recently refused a hundred dollars for "Dolly Gray," but would not part with her pet at any price.- Press Democrat, March 14, 1908
Santa Rosa made plenty of nitwit decisions in the late 1960s (freeway, mall, courthouse square, etc.) and on that list of mistakes was allowing a developer to tear down Luther Burbank's home. What's that, you say? Burbank's old house still exists? Sorry - Luther moved out of the cramped little farmhouse as soon as his nice new home across the street was completed.
Burbank lived in his fine place on Tupper street from 1906 until his death in 1926. During this time it was his home-office, with almost all of the first floor dedicated to running his business. After he moved, Burbank referred to his former residence and surrounding grounds as the "Old Homestead," or just the "Experimental Farm." Burbank's focus was clearly on the new house; It was on those front steps that he was photographed with Edison, Henry Ford, and other celebs that came calling, and he turned his front yard into a showcase for Shasta Daisies or other "new creations" that he sought to promote.
Thanks to the Press Democrat's 1906 gossip columnist Dorothy Anne, we have a detailed description of Burbank's lost home, transcribed below. It was in the modern Craftsman style and larger than it may appear in photos - besides the five upstairs bedrooms and private den, there was a reception room, library, big main office for Burbank and his secretary, and photograph catalog room.
Alas, nothing can be found about what happened to the house after Burbank died, except that his widow Elizabeth soon moved back into the cottage. Memories, photos of that lost house on Tupper street are most welcome. (UPDATE: The house was sold after his death and leased to the Burbank Business College. It was later sold to the Salvation Army, which used it as a family shelter. The Santa Rosa Urban Renewal purchased it in 1963 and demolished the home on April 2, 1964 in order to realign Sonoma Avenue.)
(TOP: Burbank postcard soon after construction
ABOVE: Burbank's yard with red poppies from "Luther Burbank: his methods and discoveries and their practical application" Vol 12, 1915
BELOW: Burbank postcard courtesy Sonoma County Library)
Mr. Burbank's New Home
Mr. Burbank's new home aroused my interest and curiosity many months ago, when one day while driving I espied two men excavating in the lot where rumor had told me he intended to erect a dwelling.
I watched the sacks of cement, piled up directly against the fence, the lumber and timbers, the bundles of slate roofing, the bricks for the chimneys, the big kegs of nails, disappear from their respective places in the lot, as they were slowly but surely worked in to shape by the artisans, until now the structure stands before us completed. A substantial, commodious home of twelve rooms, [illegible microfilm] equipment, beautiful in fixtures and furnishing and attractive every decoration.
The architecture is a combination of Colonial, Old Mission, and Burbank. Its square [illegible] and massive roof bespeaks of old Mission days, while [illegible] bordering the wide Southern veranda with its basket-work tiled floor, and supporting the balcony above tell of Colonial times. Mr. Burbank added to these two styles an Italian pergola.
The house is a frame structure, its exterior of cement on wire netting. In the interior there is no plastering, compo board being used. The slate roof, with its projecting cornices, is supported by girders resting on lookout beams. If you mix Venetian red and yellow ochre you have the exact shade in which the house is painted, with dark, cream trimmings.
Mr. Burbank's home, which is patterned somewhat after his late father's home in Lancaster, has no flashing coloring, nor extravagant furnishings, no gaudy carpets, no jarring interior finishings. All is sensible, harmonious and artistic.
Upon entering the house, I was struck by two things, its warmth and comfort and the harmonious color decorations of walls, woodwork, and furniture. I had to go through but a few of the rooms to discover Mr. Burbank's favorite color. It was the beautiful golden brown shades that commence in a pale champagne and merge into the richest, warmest golden-red brown. All through the house these shades predominate, with the exception of the sleeping apartments.
On crossing the threshold, at the front door I found myself in a large, commodious hall finished in weathered oak, carpeted in brown, at the end of which is a grand staircase. On the west side is the reception room, connecting with a large library by an archway. These two rooms, lighted by big broad windows on the south and west are finished in natural redwood, highly polished, and are papered in a tapestry papering, combining the colors of red, green and brown so adroitly that it closely resembles the fine old tapestries of England. These rooms are furnished in heavy mahogany furniture, with green rugs and hangings. The walls of the library are lined with low book-shelves, well-filled with modern signatured books. On the east side of the room was blazing a bright fire, but throughout there was a homelike glow of light and comfort.
Leaving the library and stepping out into the hall, I found at the foot of the stairs a doorway leading into a room furnished in light wood and papered in a pale shade of yellow. This is where Mr. Burbank keeps his private collection of thousands of photographs. The room, although a north one, is particularly well adapted for this purpose, for its broad leaded windows on the north light it wonderfully well.
To the right of the front door as one enters is a small reception room. Here many titled personages and celebrities, and all persons desiring to see Mr. Burbank will await his pleasure. It is comfortably furnished with easy lounging chairs and table, on which is scattered reading matter, so the waiting will not be made too tedious. But Mr. Burbank is an extremely busy man, a hard worker, and much as he would like to give his time to people who desire to see him, it is generally an impossibility.
Opening to the east from the reception room is the main office, complete in office regalia of desks, stenographer's outfit, telephone, letter files, books for reference, etc.
The east side of the office borders on the hall which leads to the kitchen. This hall connects with the cross hall that runs at right angles from the main hall. Out of this cross hall on the north opens the dining room. This room is not large in its proportions, but is extremely comfortable in appearance, with its Sierra pine finishings and furnishings. The china closet, sideboard and pass closets are built in on the east end, giving a substantially finished appearance.
The kitchen, out of which opens a large and commodious pantry, is not too big to be a burden to the caretaker. It is finished in sugar pine, with white walls, which makes a good background for the glistening new range, spotless tables and the bright linoleum on the floor.
Mr. Burbank's mother's room is the extreme east corner facing south. Here a sweet-faced old lady of ninety-three years sits by the window in a comfortable big rocker, watching with interest the people who come and go to and from the house. Her room, Mr. Burbank with his customary kindness and thoughtfulness for her comfort, has furnished just as she desired, with heavy walnut furniture, comfortable easy chairs and her own treasures. Truly this little old lady, with her frilled lace cap, her dainty apron, over the neat black dress, sitting by the window makes a pretty picture in her celebrated son's new home.
I climbed the broad stairs slowly, admiring the particularly pretty weathered-oak banisters, until two-thirds of the way up on the landing I paused to open the door, and look down the back stairway. Imagine a back stairway that is light; that has broad steps; that is easy of descent; one on which the ceiling is not so close that endanger your brains when you stand erect in descending! Can you conceive of all these four surprises on one back stairway? Mr. Burbank has them in his. Surely he should have as much credit for this as for the production of a new plant!
Mr. Burbank's den was next inspected. This is a medium-sized room facing south, finished in light wood and paper, with a paper that combines the shades of deep brown and light pink. This den is Mr. Burbank's sanctum sanctorium. When he wants to be absolutely alone either to rest, to study or to write, it is to this room he repairs. It is well furnished with a big desk, comfortable lounging chair, his chosen books and his personal souvenirs. The bevel plateglass door opening upon the balcony will enable Mr. Burbank at any time to step out and survey the progress of the work being done by his employees in his experimental grounds opposite. He also intends to sleep upon this balcony, he says, in the summer time.
Opening from the den is the sleeping apartment of Mr. Burbank. This room, with expansive southern and eastern windows is simple in its furnishings. A modest pale blue enameled bed harmonizes with the delicate oak finishings and dainty light-blue wall decorations. A bureau of oak, a table, a convenient chair or two, plain matting with rugs, complete its furnishings.
Off this bedroom is a closet so extensive in size that it would arouse the jealousy of any woman viewing it. It so impressed me that I could not help saying: "You don't mean to say that you intend to occupy all this alone?"
Mr. Burbank looked at me with a quizzical expression that inferred that I had lost my reason.
"Rumor says," I commenced bravely--but got no farther. A light of intelligence broke over his face, he shook his head, laughed heartily and said, "I deny emphatically any such intentions. That report is absolutely without foundation."
I was disappointed. I had thought I had a "scoop." [Editor: Burbank married his second wife, Elizabeth, ten years later.]
The guest chamber on the southwest end is finished in delicate shades of pink and cream, and is as yet unfurnished.
The bedroom at the northwest corner is furnished with a view of making comfortable any visiting relative. It is furnished with a birds-eye maple set with brass bed, and is papered in a delicate shade of cream, has a charmingly artistic window-seat running along its big west window, and a splendid clothes and hat closet.
A servant's room on the north side completes the upper floor, with the exception of a good-sized linen closet and a big tiled bathroom with its white porcelain tub, basins and other conveniences of the modern, up-to-date bathroom.
In the cement basement I found the secret of the genial warmth of the house, for here roared a big furnace sending up the heat in six large pipes. The neat piles of wood on all sides showed that winter cold will not affect that home.
It is with regret that we see Mr. Burbank leave the pretty little vine-clad cottage he has occupied for sixteen years, and from which he has actually been crowded out because of lack of space. There he has lived quietly and unostentatiously, [sic] with his mother by his side, and there by his study, industry and genius, he has risen step by step to pre-eminence in horticultural fame.
May his new home bring new thoughts, new inspirations, new hopes realized, new joys, new pleasures and new honors--for honors fast continue to crown Mr. Burbank, the most distinguished horticulturalist in the world.
Mr. Burbank wishes me to state that his home is not on public exhibition.
- Press Democrat, December 22, 1906
In the early 20th century, the highly-partisan Press Democrat loathed Republican President Theodore Roosevelt with the same intensity of today's Obama haters over at Fox News. Had it occurred to editor Ernest Finley and other "Old South" conservatives to dispute Teddy's citizenship, you can bet they'd have demanded his original birth certificate to prove that he wasn't a covert Shintoist born in Japan.
The PD editorial page routinely criticized everything Roosevelt, and Finley's anti-Teddy bile even seeped down to gossip columnist Dorothy Anne, who sarcastically attacked the 1906 campaign to simplify spelling. Funded by Andrew Carnegie, a Board proposed that 300 common words would benefit from somewhat more phonetic spelling and the dropping of archaic silent letters. Some of these changes are in use today ("color" instead of "colour") but others are now forgotten ("mist" instead of "missed"). Pity that Carnegie didn't instead propose better grammar; try to read aloud Dorothy Anne's criticism of "the 'President's English'" which includes a sentence with a lung-busting 84 words.
But, hey, even if President Teddy was a villainous progressive, those stuffed "teddy" bears were durned cute, what? Another Dorothy Anne column from a few months later fawns over the adorable toy given to Juilliard McDonald, grandson of mover and shaker Col. Mark L. McDonald. (Master Juilliard and his parents, by the way, were then living at the old Oates house on Tenth street.)
Yesterday afternoon Master Juilliard McDonald was the entertaining host at an informal afternoon gathering given for a few of his little neighbors. Games were greatly enjoyed by these little visitors, as was the treat of getting to play with a "Teddy" bear. This latter toy, by the way, was sent to Master Julliard from New York, and is a marvel. Imagine a genuine full grown bear, clad in football regalia, to play with all the time! Refreshments appropriate to the occasion were served. Master Juilliard will entertain a few more of his friends earlier in the coming week.- Press Democrat, December 30, 1906
This week I was the recipient of the following note:
Dear Dorothy Ann: Is it true that Society is going to return to the old fashioned games and Spelling Bees for entertainment this winter? Signed, A Subscriber.
At first I was highly amused at the little epistle for several reasons. I am not, dear Subscriber, criterior [sic] for what Society will do, what they actually do is my dominion.
After deliberation over the suggestion, though I feel that my unknown friend must mean, in particular, the Spelling Bees--and who could make a better suggestion? Has not our President endorsed phonetic spelling? Does that not mean that we all have to learn to spell again? And, if we have to learn to spell how could there be a pleasanter way than by oldfashioned [sic] Spelling Bees, handled on a new fashioned plan?
And why manage them on a new plan? If we turn our thoughts back to the time when our grandmothers were belles, would we not find the Spelling Bees a well managed, jovial, happy gathering, where the best speller received a great deal more applause and appreciation than the winner of a card party prize gets today? We would have to search hard to find in our City of Roses, the old fashioned school house, the sleighs hurrying with jingling bells, the snow four feet deep, the awkward boys, the rural audiences that gather to attend the Spelling Bees, that books describe so graphically. But would we have to seek to find our champion spellers? I think not, just a little application and our society folk would soon have phonetic spelling among their list of accomplishments, and so kind Subscriber, I might answer your question thus: It is possible, though hardly probable, that society will take up Spelling Bees to learn phonetic spelling, but I can assure you that no one will be quicker to adopt the "President's English" in preference to "the King's English" and use it in their daily writing than our good society folks.- Press Democrat, September 2, 1906
Luther Burbank only named a handful of plants after his adopted hometown, so it's fair to assume that the Santa Rosa Plum was so named in harmony with business interests that sought to promote Santa Rosa in the autumn following the 1906 earthquake.
Below: The authorized Santa Rosa Plum photograph from "Luther Burbank: his methods and discoveries and their practical application," Vol 5, 1914
SANTA ROSA PLUM THING OF BEAUTY
Luther Burbank Names Delicious Fruit After His Home Town and it Will Be Introduced This Winter
Luther Burbank has named one of his latest and best plum creations the "Santa Rosa Plum," and for the first time this winter it will leave his hands to be distributed over the fruit-growing world. Mr. Redding, of Fresno, one of the largest nurserymen on the Pacific Coast, has secured from Mr. Burbank the exclusive right to introduce the plum. The same gentleman is also introducing Burbank's new walnut trees--the rapid timber producer--and a new plumcot.
The Santa Rosa Plum is considered one of the best-ever produced, both in quality, flavor, etc. Nurserymen all over the country, who have seen and tasted it are unanimous in pronouncing it so.- Press Democrat, November 22, 1906
It's winter in 1906 Santa Rosa, and "Diamond Dick" is strolling naked down Fourth street, while crazy Miss Powell warbles away the night. If either of these people are your ancestors, feel free to keep it a family secret.
AFTER NIGHTFALL IN SANTA ROSA
Man Walks Down Fourth Street Divested of Clothing--Police Kept Busy
The police at midnight gathered in a queer customer. He was a man who had looked upon the wine to such an extent that he divested himself of his clothing, which he had thrown carelessly over his arm, and was walking along the center of Fourth street. The night was cold, too, and to prevent his taking a chill he was hurried to the police station.
The patrol wagon had to be called out late Saturday night to accommodate a woman, who, while under the influence of liquor had thrown herself on the sidewalk on lower Fourth street, and was bent on spending a noisy night there. She was also taken to the lockup. She is not a new offender.
The officers had also to give "Diamond Dick" accommodations at the jail, he having too much aboard for the requirements of pedal navigation. Policemen Boyes, McIntosh and Skaggs were quite busy on Saturday night.- Press Democrat, December 9, 1906
MISS POWELL SPENDS THE TIME IN SINGING
Miss Powell, the girl who created the disturbance at a local hotel Tuesday evening, and was taken into custody on a charge of insanity, spent the night and early morning hours in singing. She possesses a pretty good voice and had a gay time in making merry. When Deputy Sheriff Gist appeared on the scene early Wednesday morning the girl was parading around downstairs and offered to let him in. Gist took in the situation at a glance and told her she had better get up stairs quick. She went two at a time. The girl is said to have recently left the home of relatives in Green Valley and the officers were notified to be on the lookout for her. No date has been set for an inquisition and if relatives come for her, it is probable she will be turned over to them.- Santa Rosa Republican, December 12, 1906
Architects rarely made the papers in the early 20th century, so it's unusual that there were two articles about them in autumn 1906, and both involved some matter of controversy.
As described earlier, another casualty of the 1906 earthquake was the peripatetic career of William H. Willcox, a world-class architect who somehow landed in Santa Rosa. When the disaster struck, he was on the verge of having enough money committed to build a grand convention hall which could have allowed Santa Rosa to host statewide, even national events, as well as providing a civic center. He had also proposed a dam on Santa Rosa creek to transform it into a central park for the town, complete with electric lights, a swimming pool, and a bandstand. Alas, nothing more was mentioned of either project in the post-quake newspapers. Willcox was pressed into service as building inspector. He resigned after two frenetic months of quake inspections and supervision of all that new construction, not to mention creating Santa Rosa's first building code and reviewing 23 blueprints. That's a lot of work, even if Willcox was a man younger than his 74 years.
All the while, Willcox was advertising his services as an architect. It's unclear whether he won any commissions (architects being rarely newsworthy, remember) but an ambiguous mention suggests he might have designed the new vaudeville house, which was a building on Fourth street between today's Mac's Deli and Stanroy Music. And although he received no credit, let's hope that he was paid by Occidental Hotel architect L. S. Stone, who completely ripped off the design of his proposed convention center.
Even someone unschooled in architecture can see that these two buildings are nearly identical. The same old mission style, twin cupolas with spires, triple arches, even light fixtures are almost exact; architect Stone only miniaturized Willcox's design slightly to accommodate wings for retail stores with hotel rooms above - additions which have nothing in common with the style of the core building. Imitation may be flattery, but copying another work this closely is today called plagiarism.
(The Occidental Hotel was on the corner of Fourth and B streets, and this detail from a colorized postcard shows the main entrance on B.)
The story needs a running start: That 1892 architectural controversy was resurrected because of its tangential relationship to the 1906 murder of Stanford White by a man named Harry Thaw. Everything concerning the murder and two lengthy trials mesmerized the press, including both Santa Rosa papers - recall the media frenzy surrounding the O. J. Simpson case and multiply it tenfold. The wire service story printed by the Republican didn't even concern victim White directly, but the architectural partnership of McKim, Mead & White.
Like no other architects, McKim, Mead & White defined the look of America in the Gilded Age, including most of the best examples of East Coast Shingle Style, which is the design used in Comstock House. Among their greatest work is the Beaux-Arts style Boston Public Library, which ranks among the finest 19th century architecture built anywhere.
The Bostonians hated it.
It was too expensive, critics complained in 1891 as the city debated floating a second million-dollar bond to finish the building, which was already more than double the architect's estimate; the mayor and other officials began micro-managing the project, seeking to eliminate features, even doors, to save money. Librarians complained that it was a bad library because the building was so beautiful that it would distract readers. The pious set were outraged that children visiting the library would see naked statuary, and later that a life-sized statue of a nude woman was to be the centerpiece of the courtyard (the famed sculpture was instead given to the Metropolitan in New York, but a copy was eventually allowed in Boston, although the library's official arts guide still doesn't mention it). The yellow press in the city competed to expose the "Public Library Octopus," even when they had to invent outrage - and often did.
In the midst of this superheated atmosphere, it was discovered that McKim, Mead & White had subtly placed their names on the building - or, in the view of the hysteric press, turned the library into a billboard for themselves.
On the exterior of the building beneath the window arches are ornaments meant to be tablets inscribed with the names of the great masters of art, science, religion, statesmanship, printing, and so on. On one of these tablets, a reporter for the Boston Evening Record discovered an acrostic - that read vertically, the first letter in each name spelled MCKIM MEAD WHITE.
A journal from 1892 described the backpedaling:
The Discovery of the acrostic on the new Public Library building, with the initial letters of the famous men of old spelling the names of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who planned the structure, first gave amusement to the public and then aroused indignation. But the architects say that it was no subtle scheme of theirs to obtain an enduring advertisement carved in stone, but must have been the practical joke of a young draghtsman in their office who arranged the names purposely in acrostic order, but kept the joke to himself.
There was much ado, regardless of who was responsible, and sadly the names were removed - but not before wags in the newspapers suggested that the city could pay for their white elephant library by selling an acrostic bearing the name of the most widely-advertised brand of soap.
HOTEL BIDS OPENEDContract for New Occidental Will be Made Next Week
Architect L. S. Stone stated Saturday that the bids for the erection of the new Occidental Hotel in this city had been received and that contracts would be entered into early next week for the construction of the hostelry.
This will be good news to Santa Rosans and all the traveling public, as there is a great need of a large up-to-date hotel here at this time. The plans for the new Occidental call for a two-story building extending from Fourth to Fifth street on B back to the alley. The main entrance will be in the center of the block on B street. The bids show that the hotel can be erected as planned for about $90,000.
- Press Democrat, September 30, 1906
NOVEL ADVERTISINGHow a Firm of Architects Got Its Name on a Building
Close observation on the part of a newspaper man in Boston several years ago revealed a striking device employed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the noted New York architects, of which Stanford White, who was murdered by Harry K. Thaw in New York recently, was a member. The device, says the Pittsburg Gazette-Times, was an acrostic of names famous in history, literature and art by which the firm's name was to be engraved on the Boston Public library. As may be observed, the arrangement defied literature, history and philosophy in arrangement, and this was the thing that attracted the newspaper man's attention. The names were conglomerated from all nations and ages into a seemingly neat ornamentation for the fine building. Beginning at the top of a space to be devoted to names famous in the world in various lines were the following:
These names, through their initials, formed the first part of the acrostic, spelling plainly "McKim." A slight space appeared before the next list of names, which was:
The initials of these names brought out the second name of the firm, "Mead." Another slight space, and the following name appeared:
Here was the name "White" also engraved, the whole device bringing out the firm name of "McKim, Mead & White" in connection with the world's famed men. It was in 1890 [sic], just before the building was completed, that the discovery was made and published. The list of names was changed.
- Santa Rosa Republican, November 28, 1906