Earthquake Sugar Bowl Artifact Highlight #7

This little sugar bowl survived one of the greatest natural disasters in California’s history – the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. According to the donor it came from San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the world at the time.

Palace Hotel 1887

The hotel survived the earthquake but perished in the subsequent fires that destroyed over 80% of the city and killed 3000 people.

The sugar bowl is unmarked, so it’s difficult to identify the maker with any certainty. It also does not have the characteristic hotel logo with two crowned eagles that was used on most of the formal dinnerware.

Some of the china used at the hotel was made by Haviland and Co., a well known porcelain factory that originated in Limoges, France. There is still some debris attached the edge of the bowl and the handle of the lid, as well as some discoloration that is consistent with fire damage.

The Palace Hotel opened on October 2nd, 1875 and was immediately recognized for its opulence. It occupied a 2.5-acre site on the corner of Market and New Montgomery Streets. The seven-story building had 5 elevators, 7,000 windows, 750 guest bedrooms, 14-foot ceilings and was equipped with telegraph communication on all seven floors.

Palace Hotel 1895

The building was 120 feet high and for a decade it was the tallest building in the city. It took three years of post-earthquake reconstruction to bring the hotel to its formal glory.

It reopened in 1909. It went through another major restoration in 1989 and then again in 2015. It continues to be a tourist attraction with world class service and amenities.

Placer County stayed current on the events unfolding in the Bay Area after the earthquake. On April 21st, the Placer Herald reported that Dr. and Mrs. H. I. Van Norden were at the Palace Hotel at the time of the earthquake. They were able to leave the city and after traveling different routes they arrived safely in Auburn.

Supervisor J. N. Hawk, who was also in the city, was thrown with his bed across the room during the earthquake and the walls fell in where the bed had been standing.

W. E. Lininger, Auburn building contractor and Civil War veteran, was attending the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar meeting when the earthquake struck. He arrived safely in Auburn.

An unnamed Auburn resident was on the fourth floor at the Golden West Hotel on Ellis Street and was already up, dressed and reading a magazine when he felt the vibrations. “There was no swaying or twisting sensation, but it seemed as if some giant force had the building in its clutches and was simply shaking it, with a thousand others, through an immense sieve.” The writer walked around until he reached the Palace Hotel and noted that the fires were raging at various locations. (Placer Herald, April 28, 1906)

In the aftermath of the earthquake thousands left the city. “Many refugees are passing through Auburn daily, and Auburn women are giving them sandwiches and milk. Milk is particularly desirable.”

Merchants and people of Auburn gathered three truckloads of provisions, crackers, canned goods, clothing and bread that were shipped to Oakland free of charge.

Donations for the relief fund were accepted at the Freemen Hotel, J. W. Morgan’s and Wise’s (Placer Herald, April 21, 1906). Many Placer County residents traveled to Bay Area to search for relatives.

Auburn resident N. J. Cohen returned to town after bringing his father-in-law and several nephews that were burned out of their home. He believed that “the disaster was more terrible than the papers can tell, but that a new and better San Francisco will arise from the debris.” (Placer Herald, April 28, 1906)

The sugar bowl was donated in 1968 by Harry Rosenberry and his sister Sophia.

There was not much that Harry was not involved in in Auburn. He was one of the organizers of the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.

He was the president of the Auburn Ski Club and the Auburn Rotary Club. He was one of the founders of the Placer Sportsmen. He volunteered for the Salvation Army, served on the board of the Auburn Community Foundation and the Auburn Recreation Board of Trustees. He was the chairman of the advisory board of the Auburn Volunteer Fire Department. He also served two terms as president of the Placer County Chamber of Commerce.

Rosenberry was also a veteran of the 10th Mountain Battalion during World War II where he earned a Bronze Star. This light infantry division of the U.S. Army designated as a mountain warfare unit trained for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions.

H. Rosenberry pictured front row, right

His sister Sophia, a member of the Placer County Historical Society, was instrumental in acquiring a grave marker at in the Old Auburn District Cemetery for Rattlesnake Dick, a Gold Rush outlaw.

H. Rosenberry pictured at right - Gold Country Museum 1977