San Francisco Earthquake – Destruction Of Great Stanford University

ONE of the most deplorable features of the great California calamity was the destruction of the Leland Stanford, Jr., University, situated at Palo Alto.

The magnificent buildings, including a beautiful memorial hall erected by Mrs. Stanford to the memory of her husband and son, were practically wrecked.

Leland Stanford University was one of the most richly endowed, most architecturally beautiful, and best equipped institutions of learning in the world. Mrs. Jane Stanford, widow of the school’s founder, in 1901 gave it outright $30,000,000—$18,000,000 in gilt edged bonds and securities and $12,000.000 in an aggregate of 100,000 acres of land .in twenty-six counties in California. This, with what the university had received from Le-land Stanford himself, made its endowment the enormous sum of $34,000,000 besides its original capital, and on the death of Mrs. Stanford this was raised to $36,000,000.

In a way the real founder of the university was a young boy, Leland Stanford, Jr. On his death bed he was asked by his parents what he would like them to do with the vast fortune which would have been his had he lived. He replied he would like them to found a great university where young men and women without means could get an education, “for,” he added, “that is what I intended all along to do before I knew I was going to die.”

The dying wish was carried out.

The foundation stone was laid on the nineteenth anniversary of the boy’s birth, and in a few years there sprang into existence at Palo Alto, about thirty-three miles southeast of San Francisco, the “Leland Stanford University for Both Sexes,” with the colleges, schools, seminaries of learning, mechanical institutes, museums, galleries of art, and all other things necessary and appropriate to a university of high degree, with the avowed object of “qualifying students for personal success and direct usefulness in life.”

The architecture was a modification of the Moorish and Romanesque, with yet a strong blending of the picturesque mission type, which has come down from the early days of Spanish settlement in California. Driving up the avenue of palms from the university entrance to the quadrangle, one was faced by the massive, majestlc memorial arch. Augustus St. Gaudens, the great sculptor, embodied in his noblest conceptions in the magnificent frieze which adorned the arch.

However beautiful the other buildings, they were easily surpassed by the marvelous Memorial Church, which was built at a cost of $1,000,000.

The organ in this magnificent new edlfice was the largest and most expensive in the world. It had nearly 3,000 pipes and forty-six stops. The church was 190 feet in length and 156 feet in width. It cost $840,000.

The substantial magnificence of Memorial Church was followed in every line of the university’s program. The assembly hall and the library were adjoining buildings of the outer quadrangle. The former had a seating capacity of 1,700, and with its stage and dressing rooms possessed all the conveniences of a modern theater.

When Stanford University opened its doors almost fifteen years ago people thought the Pacific coast was too wild and woolly to support Stanford in addition to the big state university at Berkeley, Cal., and, as President David Starr Jordan remarked: “It was the opinion in the east that there was as much room for a new university in California as for an asylum of broken down sea captains in Switzerland.”

But Stanford grew steadily and rapidly, until last year its attendance was more than 1,600. Its president is David Starr Jordan.

The gateway to the university is opposite the town of Palo Alto, which has a population of 4,000. It is surrounded by part of its endowment, the magnificent Palo Alto estate of seventy-three hundred acres. The value of the total endowment is estimated at $35,000,000. The university buildings are the most beautiful group of public buildings in America. They are but parts of one plan, and are constructed of Santa Clara Valley brown sandstone throughout—beautiful and restful in color and in pleasing contrast to the walls of green of the surrounding hills and the great campus in front. The buildings of the university are not piled sky high, but with long corridors rise two stories, for the most part completely enclosing a beautiful quadrangle, in itself about a ninth of a mile long by eighty yards broad. The massive memorial arch in front, and the beautiful Memorial Church, with its cathedral-like interior, great arches and allegorical windows, are the most imposing features of the group. Flanking the main buildings to the right is Encina Hall for the boys and Roble Hall for the girls, while across the campus are the new chemistry building and the museum. The large grounds are most carefully tended, and all the flowers and trees and shrubs that help beautify California find a home here. The walks and drives are delightful. There is no other alliance of buildings and surrounding grounds quite so pleasing as those of Stanford University. Tuition at the University is free, and the equipment is that naturally to be expected in the richest endowed university in the world. The students of the present semester number fifteen hundred. Financial figures mean but little in connection with a university—and yet since the new church is not describable, it may be mentioned that it cost $500,000. The buildings represent an expenditure of several million dollars.

To reach Palo Alto and Stanford University one has to travel from San Francisco thirty-three miles southward over the coast line of the Southern Pacific road. The town of Palo Alto is situated in the Santa Clara Valley—a riverless area of bottom-land lying between San Francisco bay and the Santa Cruz range. The Santa Clara Valley is one of the various vales found here and there about the continent which proudly lay claim to the title “garden spot of the world.”

The Memorial Church was Mrs. Stanford’s gift to the university from her private fortune, was dedicated “to the glory of God and in loving memory of my husband, Leland Stanford.” Its erection and administration were matters entirely apart from the regular university control. In terms of money, it probably cost over $1,000,000. Clinton Day of San Francisco drew the plans, which were complemented in a hundred ways, from the ideas of Mrs. Stanford herself and suggestions obtained by her from a scrutiny of old world cathedrals.

The building of the university was decided upon by Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford in March, 1884, after their only son had died in Italy at the age of 16. Construction began, May 14, 1887, the anniversary of the boy’s birth, and instruction October 1, 1891. As for the name, here is the joint declaration of the Stan-fords: “Since the idea of establishing an institution of this kind came directly and largely from our son and only child, Leland, and in the belief that had he been spared to advise as to the disposition of our estate he would have desired the devotion of a large portion thereof to this purpose, we will that for all time to come the institution hereby founded shall bear his name and shall be known as the Leland Stanford junior University.” The object was declared to be “to qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life.” On the title page of the first register ever printed and of every one since, appear these words of Senator Stanford’s: “A generous education is the birthright of every man and woman in America.” This and President Jordan’s favorite quotation, “Die Luft der Freheit weht”—”the winds of freedom are blowing,” reveal somewhat the genius of the place.

The major study was the key to Stanford’s elective system of instruction. The ordinary class divisions were not officially recognized. Even the students until recently made far less of the terms “freshmen,” “sophomore,” “junior” and “senior,” than is made of them at most colleges. Each student elected at the start some major study, by which he steered his course for the four years, unless he changed “majors,” which was not unusual or inadvisable during the first two years, for after they had “learned the ropes” students naturally gravitated to the department whose lines they are best fitted to follow. The Stanford departments numbered 23, as follows: Greek, Latin, German, Romantic languages, English, philosophy, psychology, education, history, economics, law, drawing, mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, physiology, zoology, entomology, geology and mining, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering.

The chosen site of the university was part of the great Palo Alto ranch of the Stanford’s, devoted to the raising of grain, grapes and the famous trotting horses that were “the Senator’s” hobby and California’s. pride. It resembled the Berkeley situation, in that the bay lies before it and the foothills of the Santa Cruz range behind, but the former is three miles away and the’ Palo Alto country is so level that only when one climbs the rolling slopes behind the college does lie realize that the great inlet is so near. The view from the foothills, by the way, or better still from the crest of the mountain range farther back, where the Pacific ocean roars away to the westward and the valley and bay appear to divide the space between you and the mountains that cut the horizon to the east, is one of California’s treasures.

The idea that made the Spanish mission the model for the Stanford buildings was translated into plans by Shepley, Rutan and Cooledge. If ever there was an inspiration, says the visitor, this was one. Ever so many millions put into ever so ornate structures of the type prevalent elsewhere could not give these halls their appealing beauty. The main group of buildings formed two quadrangles. The 12 one-story members of the inner quadrangle were ready in 1891, and with the shops of the engineering departments, were for several years “the university.” The 12 structures of the inner quad were increased to 13, for the church, provided for in the original scheme, but not begun until 1899, was added. Those inclosed—to quote statistics from the register—a court 586 feet long by 246 feet wide—3 1/4 acres—relieved from barrenness by big circular plots in which flourished palms, bamboos and a medley of other tropical translations. Penetrate 10 feet into one of these plots, which are always damp from much watering, and it takes little imagining to fancy yourself in an equatorial jungle. Surrounding this quadrangle was another—the “outer quad,” of 14 buildings that were bigger and higher and considerably more impressive than the pioneers. The extreme length of the second quadrangle was 894 feet. All the way around it stretched the same colonnades, with their open-arched facades, that flanked the inner court. And in addition the outer and inner quadrangles were connected here and there with these same arched pathways, which subdivide the space between the two into little reproductions in miniature of the main plaza within. The colonnades, the tiled roofs and peculiar yellow sandstone of which all the quadrangles were constructed formed a combination which is not easily nor willingly forgotten.

Outside this central group, of which the great church and the memorial arch were badly wrecked by the quake, were enough other buildings used for the university proper to bring the number up to fifty or so. They include chemistry building, museum, library, gymnasium, engineering and two dormitories—one, Roble hall, for women; the other, Encina hall, for men.

The ruins wrought among those magnificent buildings by the frightful upheaval of the earth which wrenched some of them apart and threw down huge sections of walls aggregated in money value about $3,000,000.

The gymnasium and the library were wholly destroyed, nothing but skeletons of twisted steel remaining. The loss was half a million dollars on each. The Memorial church was left merely a frame, the mosaic work being torn down. The top of the 80-foot high memorial arch was crashed to the ground a heap of ruins. The original quadrangle was but little damaged. Many rare specimens from Egypt were lost in the museum, which was only partly destroyed. The fraternity lodge and Chi Psi Hall were a total loss. The engineering buildings were partly demolished. Encina Hall, where 200 boys stayed, was much shaken, and a large stone chimney crashed through the four floors, burying student Hanna, of Bradford, Pa. He was the only student killed. About twelve others were slightly hurt.

Roble Hall, women’s dormitory, escaped without a scratch.

The damage at Palo Alto City amounts to $200,000. The damage in the neighboring towns was also heavy. San Mateo suffered more than Palo Alto. The Redwood city jail was torn down and all the prisoners escaped.

There was severe damage at Menlo Park. Burlingame suffered a loss of fully $100,000. Many houses were torn down there. The only other death in that vicinity was that of Fireman Otto Gordes, who was buried under the chimney of the power house at Palo Alto.

All the towns mentioned were left without light or power.

President David Starr Jordan of Stanford University announced that the university authorities would begin at once to repair the quadrangle, laboratories and dormitories. The Memorial church was sheltered to prevent further injury and work in all classes was resumed on April 23.

President Jordan said that it was unlikely any attempt would be made to restore the Memorial church, the memorial arch, the new library, the gymnasium or the museum of the university.

The great rival of the Leland Stanford, Jr., University is the University of California at Berkeley, a suburb of San Francisco. The effect of the earthquake there is tersely told by Professor Alpheus B. Streedain of the zoological department. There were eight severe shocks in succession.

“It all lasted about twenty-five seconds,” said Professor Streedain, “and talk about being frightened, to be more expressive I thought hell was coming to earth. I rushed down to the street in my pajamas, and people were almost crazy. Chimneys were down all over. I was safe and trusted to God for any coming shocks. It was a mighty serious proposition, and one I shall never forget.”

By a seeming miracle the big California University buildings that stand on the campus elevations escaped harm in the earthquake shock.

Recorder James Sutton of the University said : “I made a personal examination of the buildings on the campus and received reports from deans of the colleges and it appears that not one of the buildings was harmed in the slightest degree.

“Professor O’Neill of the chemistry department reported that the damage done to the instruments in the building did not aggregate more than $50. California Hall had not a mark on it to indicate that an earthquake occurred that morning. The other buildings were in the same condition. The Greek theater had not a scratch on its walls.”

The town of Berkeley was not so fortunate as the university in the matter of damage sustained. No lives were lost, nor were there any notable disasters to buildings, but the aggregate dam-age in the shape of twisted structures, broken chimneys and falling walls was many thousands of dollars.

The destruction of so many magnificent buildings at the Leland Stanford, Jr., University was one of the worst calamities that has ever befallen an American educational institution.