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Where Was the Valencia Hotel?

by Dawn Pyne Murayama

Little did I know when I entered Cherin’s Appliance store on Valencia Street that I would find answers to a question I hadn’t been able to solve. Luckily, Michael Cherin waited on me. During our conversation I asked him if he know where the Valencia Hotel had been. He said, “Right here,” but then for validation he asked his grandfather, Lou Cherin, who is the family historian. Lou said no, the Valencia Hotel was across the street.

Built in 1898, the Valencia Hotel was a four-story wood frame structure with a brick foundation. The Mission district was originally a marshland with creeks and shallow lakes. Landfill began in the 1860s, and in 1888 four hundred acres of solid ground had been created, or so it was thought. For there was still a lake flowing underneath the Valencia Hotel, named by the Spanish The Lake of Our Lady of Sorrows, Laguna de Manatial de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores.

The 1906 Earthquake caused the ground to act like an unstable marshland once again, today called liquefaction. The four-story Valencia Hotel sank into the ground in minutes. Because only the top floor remained above ground, most of its residents were trapped three stories below. An estimated 40 people drowned due to flooding from a burst water main. Rescuers tore apart the top of the building and saved a dozen people. Rescue efforts continued for two days and nights.

The earthquake caused Valencia Street to sink and shift six feet to the east, rupturing a crucial water main. No building remained. Three days after the Great Fire everything between 17th and 18th Streets had been burned down.

The Valencia Hotel was replaced in 1916 with a garage, today called Excellent Automotive Service and Repair at 740 Valencia Street. The unreinforced brick building is listed in the Office of Historic Preservation.

Since my question has been answered thanks to Lou Cherin, I shall be changing my walk. Now in my Mission Murals and Ethnic Mission walk, I shall include the site of the Valencia Hotel and its history, also pointing out Cherin’s family-owned store, which was established on the corner of Valencia and 19th Streets in 1892.

Historic photos reprinted with permission, S.F. History Center, S.F. Public Library.

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The Valencia Hotel soon after its collapse in 1906

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Valencia Street at 17th after the fire

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