Eyewitness account by SFPD Lt. Henry N. Powell

I just peeped in and walked out again through the lobby. Then, as I was going out of the door, the earthquake came and I hurried my paces. The first quiver was strong enough, but it was not terrifying. As I stepped out to reach the middle of the street and safety from the falling glass and stuff that accompanies all earthquakes, the twister came, and for a few moments it baffled me.

Valencia Street not only began to dance and rear and roll in waves like a rough sea in a squall; but it sank in places and then vomited up its car tracks and the tunnels that carried the cables. These lifted themselves out of the pavement, and bent and snapped. It was impossible for a man to stand, or to realize just where he was trying to keep standing. Houses were cracking and bending and breaking the same as the street itself and the car tracks. In my wake, out of the Valencia Hotel, the night clerk came scampering and tripping over the waves and iron obstacles of the pavement. Close behind him followed the remittance man. I caught the remittance man, who was unsteady on his legs, and ran with him toward Nineteenth Street. As we ran we heard the hotel creak and roar and crash. I turned to look at it. It was then daylight and the dust of the falling buildings had not had time to rise. The hotel lurched forward as if the foundation were dragged backward from under it, and crumpled down over Valencia Street. It did not fall to pieces and spray itself all over the place, but telescoped down on itself like a concertina. This took only a few seconds.

Before we got to Nineteenth Street I halted. When the dust and tumult subsided, and I could find my feet amid the crumpled ruins of the street, I made my way back to the Valencia as best I could. In the first gasp of recovery from the shock it did not occur to one that the tragedy was so complete. Everything seemed to be burst up. The Valencia Hotel looked no worse than the street. Later — a second or so later — one realized that the crumpled four-story building was full of living people.

In the southeast corner room on the top floor lived a Jewish tailor and his wife. I knew them quite well. When I got to the place these good people were at their window practically on a level with the street, very uneasy and very anxious to escape, but unwilling to leave before they had dressed and saved some things. Near them, on the top floor, lived an old painter who was very fond of birds and had his room full of canaries in cages. The wall in the front of his room fell out, but he and his canaries were all safe on a level with the street, unhurt but frightened.

As well as I could ascertain comparatively few persons on the top floor had been hurt or killed, and everybody in the lobby and cafe on the main floor escaped before the building collapsed. It was on the floors in between that the havoc occurred, and heart-rending scenes were witnessed while some of the residents on these floors were being taken out, most of them dead or injured.

Mr. William P. Bock, the proprietor, was never found. His wife was taken out comparatively uninjured. His two sons, William H. and Albert C. Bock, also lived in the hotel. When the rescuers dug down to where William H. Bock was buried, they found him dead, but his wife in the bed beside him was scarcely injured. The other son, Albert Bock, was found to have a broken shoulder. Neither his wife nor baby were hurt. The baby, when rescued, was contentedly sucking at its bottle.

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