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Post  kosovohp on Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:00 am

Entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the wealth generated by the Gold Rush. Early winners were the banking industry, which saw the founding of Wells Fargo in 1852, and the Bank of California in 1864, while the development of the Port of San Francisco established the city as a center of trade. Business was further enhanced when overland rail access to the Bay Area from the Eastern US was established in 1869 via the Central Pacific Railroad. Built between 1863 and 1869 by a group of then Sacramento-based magnates led by former Gov. Leland Stanford known as the the Big Four, the line constituted the western portion the Pacific Railroad (aka the First Transcontinental Railroad) authorized by the U.S. Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864.[31]

Catering to the needs and tastes of the growing population, Levi Strauss opened a dry goods business and Domingo Ghirardelli began manufacturing chocolate. Immigrant laborers made the city a polyglot culture, with Chinese railroad workers creating the city's Chinatown quarter. The first cable cars carried San Franciscans up Clay Street in 1873. The city's sea of Victorian houses began to take shape, and civic leaders campaigned for a spacious public park, resulting in plans for Golden Gate Park. San Franciscans built schools, churches, theaters, and all the hallmarks of civic life. The Presidio developed into the most important American military installation on the Pacific coast.[32] By the turn of the century, San Francisco was a major city known for its flamboyant style, stately hotels, ostentatious mansions on Nob Hill, and a thriving arts scene.[33]
"Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone." Jack London after the 1906 earthquake and fire[34]

At 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, a major earthquake struck San Francisco and northern California. As buildings collapsed from the shaking, ruptured gas lines ignited fires that would spread across the city and burn out of control for several days. With water mains out of service, the Presidio Artillery Corps attempted to contain the inferno by dynamiting blocks of buildings to create firebreaks.[35] More than three-quarters of the city lay in ruins, including almost all of the downtown core.[17] Contemporary accounts reported that 498 people lost their lives, though modern estimates put the number in the several thousands.[36] More than half the city's population of 400,000 were left homeless.[37] Refugees settled temporarily in makeshift tent villages in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, on the beaches, and elsewhere. Many fled permanently to the East Bay.

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