Horse drawn fire engines in front of the Harbor Emergency Hospital, and the Union Ferry Building in the background. Royston Leonard /

By Alyce Collins

THE DESTRUCTION caused by the fatal Great San Francisco Earthquake that struck in 1906 has been laid bare in a series of stunning colourised images on the anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters in history.

The photos show the dilapidated foundations of buildings, and bewildered survivors surrounded by the rubble of what was once their home city.

View of the destruction and rubble looking east down California Street from Powell. Royston Leonard /


Other images show the cracks that ruptured through the pavements because of the earthquake, causing breakages in the road and the train tracks throughout San Francisco.

Another striking image reveals the fires that broke out after the earthquake, showing the sky filled with smoke as the fires roared high above public buildings, as people stared helplessly at the relentless blaze.

Fire on Market Street while a man patrols with a gun. Royston Leonard /


The original images were colourised by Royston Leonard (55), an electrician from Cardiff, Wales. The photographs were colourised using Paint Shop Pro X2.

“I’d never seen any photos of the San Francisco 1906 earthquake in colour before.

“After 112 years since the earthquake happened, I was really surprised at how good some of the photographs were.

Stockton Street from Union Square, looking toward Market Street. Royston Leonard /


“Seeing the photos, it looks like a war zone and it just reminds you how quick a city can be destroyed by man or by human nature.”

In 1906, the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Northern California coastline, at precisely 5.12am local time on the 18th of April. Although, the earthquake occurred before the Richter Scale was created, and so the magnitude is an estimate; other estimates vary from 7.7 to 8.3. The extent of the shaking was felt from Oregon, to Los Angeles and even as inland as Nevadan proving its undeniable strength.

Chinatown after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Royston Leonard /


The epicentre of the earthquake is predicted to be offshore, in a north-westerly direction of the Golden Gate Bridge as a minor local tsunami was recorded by a tide gauge in a nearby location.

View of a cobblestone street, which was split down the middle and a wooden cart has fell down the middle after the great earthquake. Royston Leonard /


In the immediate aftermath of the quake, 375 deaths were confirmed, however the total could be up to 3000 deaths and at least 227,000 people were thought to have been made homeless.

Women search for family relics in the ruins of their home. Royston Leonard /


Following the immediate impact of the earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks, the fires that tore through San Francisco are thought to have caused even more devastation. Caused by ruptured gas mains, the fires burned down approximately 25,000 buildings as they burned for four days following the quake.

People leaving the city to escape the flames. Royston Leonard /


To this day, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 remains one of the most significant earthquakes of all time because scientists were able to derive a plethora of information due to its size. The destruction of the quake and the ensuing fires is estimated to have cost roughly $350 million – the equivalent to $8.97 billion now.