One-hundred and eleven years ago, in the cool pre-dawn of April 18th, 1906, a massive earthquake rocked San Francisco, forever changing the landscape and future development of our fair, foggy city.
Among the buildings that never quite recovered from the quake and fires was a handsome brick cable car powerhouse that had stood as a landmark since 1883 at the corner of Market and Valencia streets, which was long known as "The Hub.” The Market and Valencia Powerhouse, owned and operated by the private United Railroads Company, was a key cable car facility, providing propulsion power and a variety of repair services.
A view of the Market and Valencia Powerhouse in June of 1906, two months after the earthquake and subsequent fires, which left residents without basic amenities like potable water. “Boil all water” can be seen scrawled on the side of the building as an impromptu public service notice.
As San Francisco scrambled to get back on its feet after the disaster, most of its cable car lines were converted to electric streetcar lines, and the powerhouse was no longer needed to move cable cars along Market Street. Instead, the facility occupying the block bounded by Market, Valencia, McCoppin and Gough streets became the site of a manufacturing plant for hot, tarry bitumen, a material used in pavement.