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(San Francisco Art Association.)

San Francisco, July 1, 1906.

To the President of the University,

SiR:– I have the honor to submit the following report of the San Francisco Art Association, Mark Hopkins institute of art, for the two years beginning July 1, 1904, and ending July 1, 1906. The destruction of the Mark Hopkins institute by fire in April last, including all of the art association's records, makes it impossible to render this report in detail. I may state, however, in general terms, that the work of the institute was kept up to the highest standard of previous years, with such additions and improvements as experience or increased facilities permitted.


The autumn exhibitions of water colors and sketches and the spring exhibitions of works in all mediums were held in both years with marked success, the quality of the work in the last spring exhibition being unusually excellent. Concert programmes of a high order were given once a week, during the exhibition seasons, under the direction of Sir Henry Heyman. Special exhibitions of interest to the members of the association and the public together with lectures on art topics were also held during the fall and winter season. The attendance at the institute averaged about thirty thousand persons for each year. One day and evening in each month was given over to the admission of the public free of charge. The school of design was maintained at its maximum. The number of instructors employed was nine, and the enrollment of students (who come from all parts of the Pacific coast states) numbered about two hundred. A normal course for the instruction of students who desired to become teachers of art was established, and also a class in decorative designing, both of which additions to the curriculum were much needed and appreciated. The buildings and grounds of the institute were kept in perfect condition both as regards their appearances and their practical utility. The safeguards against fire had been made absolutely complete, under the supervision of a representative of the underwriters of the fire department, and the city electrician. Nevertheless, it was by fire that the institute was finally destroyed. This catastrophe, which formed a part of the great tragedy that overwhelmed the city in April, 1906, occurred on the nineteenth of that month. The earthquakes on the morning of the eighteenth, which produced more or less injury to so many buildings, did no harm whatever to the institute or its contents. The extraordinarily substantial manner in which the building was constructed, a fact often previously commented on, together with its situation, accounted for this immunity, For a long while it was thought that the isolated and commanding position of the institute on Nob bill rendered it safe also from the fires which the earthquake had caused to break out in many parts of the city. As the night of that first day set in, however, and the awful panorama of these conflagrations was seen to its fullest extent, the rapidity with which the flames sprang from block to block, in the lack of water, and swept onward, their fury unchecked by hills or open places, soon made it evident that the chances of escape for the institute were growing less every hour and preparations were made for the instant removal Of the most valuable of the works of art. In the universal destruction that was by this time taking place, however, it was impossible to obtain wagons of any sort, and so these preparations were necessarily limited and inadequate.

Destruction of the Institute in the San Francisco Conflagration

Early the following morning (Thursday, April 19) the fires began closing in upon the institute from two directions, Powell street by way of Pine, and Chinatown by way of Sacramento street. The surrounding sea of fire had made the air on the hill like that of a furnace; and when the Pine-street fire finally reached Mason street, opposite the school building, the latter instantly ignited and quickly burned to the ground. An engine had been stationed near by, and that was pumping water from one of our reservoirs succeeded for a time in keeping the flames from spreading to the adjacent Mary Frances Searles gallery. When, however, the block of residences on the west side of Mason street from Pine to California began burning, a line of fire flashed along the eaves of the gallery, which burst into a blaze, and the destruction of the main building instantly followed.

Rescue of Paintings and Statuary.

As soon as it was plain that the institute could not be saved the employees began moving all of the contents of the museum. In this they were most ably assisted by a number of University of California students, and also by a detachment from the U.S. Cutter "Bear." The paintings were cut from their frames and conveyed to places of presumed safety. Some few were thus stored in the basement of the Flood residence, which building, being of stone and detached, offered apparent security, but was nevertheless subsequently destroyed, and with it all of the paintings together with books and furniture which had been piled upon the lawn. Some of the pictures were taken across the bay to the university by students; and others were carried by employees to remote parts of town, and these were saved. Some statuary and other articles only partially injured were also recovered after the fire in the immediate vicinity of the institute.

Estimate of the Financial Loss

The value of the property destroyed, in the absence of all records, can only be roughly surmised. In previous report on this subject it was stated that, disregarding the original cost of erecting this remarkable building with its rare natural woods, inlayings, carvings, and profuse decorations, together with the elaborate system of retaining walls in the gardens, reservoirs, etc., which cost is said to approximate $2,000,000, it would seem best to take as a basis of recent valuation the estimate for taxation at the time the association entered into possession. This valuation for the city and state in 1892 (buildings and grounds) was $270,000. Since then a gallery costing about $35,000 and a school building costing about $25,000 were added, which with the advance in realty, would make the entire property worth about $400,000 at the time of the conflagration. As for the contents of the building: while our library was not large, it contained many valuable works and might be estimated at about $8,000; the pictures should be estimated at about $90,000, the sculpture at $40,000, and the furniture at $20,000. The school furniture and casts were worth about $15,000. This makes a total of buildings and lot of $400,000 and contents $173,000, or $573,000 in all. The insurance carried by the association amounted to $59,000 on the buildings and $28,300 on their contents. In addition to this, $56,000 was carried on private collections of pictures on exhibition in the galleries (not computed in the foregoing estimate), which, of course, goes to the owners. Of the paintings saved, there were thirty-three of importance owned by the association and of minor importance fifteen; belonging to private owners, ninety-five. Some three or four marbles were also saved. Aside from these the buildings and contents were, as has been said, a total loss.

Immediately after the demolition of the institute an office was established at 2661 Pine street. Here the officers of the association devoted themselves to ascertaining the whereabouts of the students and answering telegrams, letters, and personal inquiries in regard to them. All of the students finally reached home or friends in safety. Steps were then taken for cataloguing the works of art that had been saved and giving them proper care. In this connection the art association wishes to acknowledge its indebtedness to the authorities of the university, and also to the dean of the medical department for the temporary storage given its property at Berkeley and the affiliated college building in San Francisco. The collection of insurance money has been placed in charge of a capable committee and is progressing as rapidly as circumstances permit.

Plans for Reorganization

As for the future, it is the intention of the art association to re-create an art institute, and the first step in this direction will be the reorganization of the school. Arrangements are now being made for the erection of a temporary building for tuition; and a new equipment has been purchased. The board of directors has never lacked encouraging testimony as to the value of the art institute to the city, the state, and, it may even be said without exaggeration, to the entire Pacific Coast, and now that the institute has been destroyed, this testimony has been redoubled, and leads the board to believe that it will have the hearty support of the people in its endeavor not only to replace but improve the character of the permanent buildings required for the purpose. While the funds at present available for the projects are very limited, the board hopes in the course of time to be able to raise the sum requisite for the undertaking so that the work so successfully conducted in the past may continue in the future with as little interruption as possible.

Respectfully submitted,

    Willis E. Davis
President of the San Francisco Art Association.
Biennial Report of the President of the University on behalf of the Regents to His Excellency the Governor of the State, 1904-1906
Berkeley : December 1906
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