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Did Mayor Schmitz Lose His Head?

The pleasing and popular assumption that in all this trouble our mayor rose to the occasion calm and dignified like the hero of a melodrama, is founded on rumor and the good report of his friends rather than on the plain facts of the case. Undoubtedly, he did his best; but we are inclined to think that the praise he has elicited from many quarters is an impulsive tribute to a manly effort to meet a trying crisis rather than the homage called forth by clear thinking and prompt action at a time when ability and achievement are vastly more important than mere zeal and good will. We expect a general to win victories, not friends. When the complete history of the event comes to be written we suspect that the fire will be found to have been handled by the civic authorities without system, decision or thoroughness; that the civil power was a clog to the military from the start, and that it was only when the direction of affairs was finally shifted entirely from the political to the professional head–that is, from the mayor to General Funston–that anything like control of the situation was possible. We do not make these surmises in any random or reckless way. We merely sum up a general impression gathered from various reliable sources by people who saw at close range what was going on in the difficult job of saving much of our city by blowing up some of it.

In all this we speak with some reservation. However, none is needed to characterize the senseless and reckless action of the mayor in sending all over the country for architects.

In spite of all statements to the contrary, it is absolutely certain that Mayor Schmitz, soon after the fire, caused telegrams to be sent to the mayors of the principal cities of the United States urging them to send at once architects and draftsmen to San Francisco to help build up the new city. Evidence is ample that such a telegram was received by the mayors of Portland, Seattle, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, and it is perfectly safe to assume that the mayors also of Pittsburgh, St. Louis, New York and Omaha, and every other large city, also received a similar message.

The consequence is, that we are literally swamped with architects and draftsmen. Hundreds have come here and hundreds more are coming. In face of all this it is safe to say, and we know what we are talking about, that our architects are on the whole less busy than they were before the 18th of April. In fact, nearly all building operations of magnitude have stopped short just as completely as the machinery of a large plant does when the power gives out. All this frenzied talk of this man and that man starting skyscrapers next week is pure tommyrot. As to the fear lest the world's steel supply will give out in the vast undertakings of the immediate future, all we can say is that such an apprehension is as absurd as the rumor that reached Paris to the effect that 300,000 people of San Francisco were killed by the earthquake and that Chicago was twenty feet under the waters of Lake Michigan. Doubtless there will be plenty of work for architects in due time, and there will be enough architects here to attend to it. The evil of the mayor's ridiculous telegram is to the deluded men who came here rather than to the established ones already in the field. An influx of new professional blood would do us good, providing the men are of the right kind. Among the many arrivals from Eastern cities are several quite eminent names, and no doubt other quite eminent men without any name. Such men we are glad enough to welcome, but, failing employment, what are they to do? On the other hand, seeing that the architects come here by way of their respective City Halls–through the mayoralty, as it were–it is safe to assume that they are not all quite the kind that we need. Sound, educated, conservative architects do not, as a rule, have their orbits anywhere near the influence of city Politics. Woe betide them when they do... .

American Builders' Review
July 1906

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