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Finding Aid to the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks Collection 1983-2005 (bulk 1983-1999)
SFH 9  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related Materials
  • Materials Transferred
  • Conservation Note
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks Collection
    Date (inclusive): 1983-2005
    Date (bulk): 1983-1999
    Collection Identifier: SFH 9
    Creator: Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks.
    Physical Description: 1 carton, 1 box (2.5 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    info@sfpl.org
    Abstract: Research files, correspondence, photographs, and clippings documenting the activities of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks (SFPASFRS), an organization founded by Jane Cryan to identify and preserve the remaining small dwellings that were mass-produced to house San Franciscans displaced by the 1906 earthquake and fire.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.

    Access

    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright retained by San Francisco Public Library except where retained by specific authors for published and unpublished manuscripts, or those retained by photographers. Jane Cryan retains copyright for: Hope Chest: The True Story of San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake Refugee Camps (1998), "Hope Chest: A History of One of the Most Magnificent Charities of All Time"(1993), and "From Tents to Shacks: A guide to San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake Refugee Camps". Sergio Amunategui retains copyright for his thesis, Shelter, Dwellings and Metamorphosis. Jim Kanne retains copyright for all photographs marked as such.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks Collection (SFH 9), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Provenance

    Gift of Jane Cryan, founder of SPASFRS, in 1999.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to view the San Francisco History Center's Subject Files and Photography Collection as well as the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials. See also the 1906 Earthquake Refugee Shacks at the Presidio.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs and slides have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Books have been transferred to the San Francisco History Center Stacks and can be found in the library's catalog. Artifacts are housed in the San Francisco History Center's Realia Collection.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some pages were removed from binders.

    Biographical/Historical note

    Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks was founded in 1983 by local activist Jane Cryan. Its purpose was to identify and advocate for San Francisco's surviving earthquake cottages that were built as part of the relief effort after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
    1. 1906 Quake Refugee Shacks
    Though a necessity due to the quake, housing in the form of refugee shacks was commissioned as a result of peculiarities arising out of the San Francisco relief effort. Following the quake, with some 200,000 completely homeless and 100,000 temporarily displaced, a makeshift city of tents and shelters rose unofficially, including any available lean-to, voting booth or ruined mansion. San Francisco was mapped into seven districts to feed, clothe, and temporarily shelter refugees. At the end of April, 1906, as many as 200 relief stations were in operation, with soup kitchens available for workers and the needy. By June 18, official tent camps were designated to provide for the immediate needs of the citizens, namely food, shelter and clothing. In all, 18 sites were selected as official tent camps, including Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. In return for the charity and/or the cheap accommodations, the campers were expected to obey certain rules (no lewdness, vagrancy, drunkenness, etc.). By August, hard times had driven some in the camps—particularly at Jefferson Square—to suicide and despair. Wooden shacks were seen as a solution to the existing camp squalor, and were begun in the fall of 1906.
    The course of figuring out how many wooden structures were needed and what to charge for them was a daunting prospect, since there was an ever-shifting population of both paupers and self-sustaining laborers who may or may not have submitted to the Finance or Relief committees' suggested retail prices. Where they would be built—shifting sand dunes in the Sunset and Richmond, or the burned-out grounds of the Mission—also had to be considered. The Lands and Buildings Committee eventually settled on a plan to build mass-produced cabins, which in the end totaled 5,610 (after an initial plan for 3000). In total, 31 official camps were housing earthquake refugees, 11 of which were shack cities. Of the shacks, three types are known, labeled Types "A," "B," and "C," respectively by researchers and enthusiasts.
    2. SPASFRS
    The formation of The Society For the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco's 1906 Refugee Shacks (SPASFRS) was announced on October 1, 1983 by its founder, Jane Cryan, a local activist. Cryan's enthusiasm for the shacks grew out of her own interest in a cottage she had rented in 1982, later discovered to be an amalgamation of three "Type A" shacks and a free-standing "Type B" refugee shack (her Little Red Cottages). Appreciation quickly turned to anxious activism, when it was made known later in 1983 that her own red cottage-shack was for sale and would be demolished, as had many other refugee shacks since 1906. Cryan's passion for the shacks was not limited to preservation; she became intent on compiling a survey of extant shacks and their histories.
    After a successful appeal to the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Board to bestow recognition on her cottage as San Francisco landmark No.171, SPASFRS set upon saving the so-called "Goldie Shacks" in the Richmond District (named after a former resident). Here the SPASFRS gained allies in both Freda Eisenson, the neighbor of "Goldie" who contacted Cryan about its proposed demolition, and Gwenda Davies, another supporter. After much protest, "Goldie" was given an appeal from demolition, temporarily keeping it in existence; now debates arose as to whether it should be moved or remain as a 'signpost' for the Richmond District in which the shacks were originally placed. This second victory for SPASFRS was newsworthy and helped garner public interest, combined with Cryan's informative and popular slide show presentations on the history of San Francisco refugee shacks. In the end, the U.S. Army took over the care of "Goldie," moving them to the Presidio, thought to be an ideal addition to the Army Museum's extensive 1906 Earthquake exhibit. The Army's 11th hour rescue of the shack—and the press and hoopla surrounding it—certainly fueled public interest. The restoration of the shack and its opening on the 80th anniversary of the quake in 1986 took place in a large celebration, proclaimed "Earthquake and Fire Refugee Cottage Day in San Francisco" by Mayor Dianne Feinstein.
    Despite setbacks, including volunteer fatigue after numerous battles with reluctant property owners and subsequent demolitions of shacks, as well as embarrassment of discovering so-called imposter shacks (as in the case of Labor Leader Bill Bailey's shack formerly on Telegraph Hill), the SPASFRS persevered. In September 1989 Cryan met and collaborated with Sergio Amunategui, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, whose Masters Thesis in Architecture involved the evolution of a temporary building to a singlefamily dwelling. Amunategui had learned about the shacks through a Seismic Architecture class and called Cryan to be his imaginary client. This resulted not only in a scale model of such a dwelling—being a glorified version of Jane Cryan's own little red cottages—but also an academic assessment of the shacks heretofore not theorized: the cottages are archetypal reminders of charity, as well as a reminder of the possibility of city-wide homelessness in an inevitable and unpredictable future quake. The Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks lost its last battle to save a shack when the San Francisco Planning Commission overruled the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board’s decision to save the "La Rosa" shacks on April 9, 1992. Although less active, SPASFRS continued its grass-roots campaigns for preservation throughout the 1990s. In September of 1999, Jane Cryan gave the SPASFRS archive to the people of the City of San Francisco.

    Scope and Contents

    Research files, correspondence, photographs, and clippings documenting the activities of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks (SFPASFRS), an organization founded by Jane Cryan in 1983 to identify and preserve the remaining small dwellings that were mass-produced to house San Franciscans displaced by the 1906 earthquake and fire.
    The collection includes correspondence to and from property owners, surveys, bibliographies, photographs and slides, lectures, published and unpublished material, press releases, and reference material related to the history of each shack, as well as a few artifacts. Each refugee shack for which SPASFRS advocated had a file created for it containing research and correspondence. Actions taken by the SPASFRS to preserve particular shacks are strongly represented, as are images of shacks that are no longer in existence.
    Jane Cryan originally organized the shack files. Volunteers added to the files, most notably activists Freda Eisenson and Gwenda Davies. Sergio Amunategui's Master's Thesis and slide show is present, as is Cryan's unpublished "Hope Chest" in two manuscript forms, one of which has been illustrated.

    Arrangement

    The material has been arranged into 5 series: Series 1: Jane Cryan's Research Files; Series 2: Shack Files and Correspondence; Series 3: Press and Speeches; Series 4: Writings by Jane Cryan; and Series 5: Shack-related Projects. The subseries of individual shack folders are arranged alphabetically by street address, then chronologically within. Other series are arranged by format, then chronologically.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Cryan, Jane
    1906 Earthquake refugee shacks
    Emergency housing--California--San Francisco