"From Green Refugee Shacks to Cozy Homes of Their Own": San Francisco's Earthquake Refugee Cottages as Vernacular Architecture
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The 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco devastated the city and left 200,000 people homeless. To house the displaced population, small cottages were built in camps in the city’s parks. With the closure of the camps after one year, refugees were permitted to move their cottages and establish them as permanent homes elsewhere in the city, providing many with the opportunity for first time home ownership. Remarkably, some authenticated cottages have persisted through the decades in the urban landscape. A survey revealed 45 cottage sites; all have been greatly altered over their 110-year lifespans. These modifications make the relief cottages outstanding examples of vernacular architecture--an originally blank building that was moved and adapted according to the needs of its occupants. As such, the cottages reflect manifestations of significance and integrity that necessitate careful, creative evaluation to fit within the framework of modern historic preservation in the United States.