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From the Archives: The 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake

June 29, 1925: Brother Michael Lamm O.F.M., one of the Franciscan friars, stands on the steps of the
June 29, 1925: Brother Michael Lamm, one of the Franciscan friars, stands on the steps of the earthquake-damaged Mission Santa Barbara.
(George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

At 6:42 a.m. on June 29, 1925, the city of Santa Barbara was heavily damaged by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. Thirteen people were killed and damage was estimated at $8 million. Few buildings on State Street escaped damage.

Los Angeles Times staff correspondent Kyle D. Palmer reported the next morning:

SANTA BARBARA, June 29––Recurrent shocks, following a severe temblor at 6:42 this morning that demolished or seriously damaged virtually all brick, concrete and stone structures in the city and caused the death of an undetermined number of persons–now known to exceed seventeen [later revised down to 13]–forced Santa Barbara's 30,000 residents to face a night on the city's lawns, in the public parks and along the beach.

Thirty-two persons were reported as seriously injured. It is estimated that the total number receiving minor injuries did not exceed 200.

The first person to be rescued alive from the huge pile of debris in front of the wrecked San Marcos Building is Mrs. Marcario Hernandez, who was caught by the feet under fallen timbers. The woman was discovered by workers searching for the body of Dr. James Angel, dentist. Her leg was broken, but she appeared otherwise uninjured.

The body of Dr. Angel was still warm when removed, indicating he had been dead but a short time.

Although the earthquakes following the first heavy temblor this morning were thought to be due to settling of the earth's crust and greatly diminished in violence, they were of sufficient intensity to dislodge bricks and stones and render dangerous the immediate vicinity of shaken buildings. A shock of considerable intensity was felt at 5:40 p.m., another at 6:46–almost twelve hours to the minute since the first quake–and two more at 7:22 and 7:23.

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June 29, 1925: Damage at the Californian Hotel after Santa Barbara earthquake.
June 29, 1925: Damage at the Hotel Californian after Santa Barbara earthquake. This image and the next may have been taken at same time for possible panorama. Los Angeles Times
June 29, 1925: Damage at the Californian Hotel after Santa Barbara earthquake.
June 29, 1925: Damage at the Hotel Californian after Santa Barbara earthquake. Los Angeles Times

Soon after the morning earthquake, Los Angeles Times staff photographer George Watson was dispatched to Santa Barbara. Years later in an interview for the Watson Family Photographic Archive, George Watson remarked that he "drove up in my old 1915 Buick C-25."

"We drove up there in record time and the destruction was amazing. The Californian Hotel was about a 4-5 story building, quite long and the whole wall was all dropped out. You could see the beds, dressers, and the sheets tied together where the people slid down, terrible looking mess. And the street was full of rubble. It was really terrible."

The Santa Barbara mission was badly damaged. While at the mission, Watson captured the photo of Brother Michael standing on the steps of the church surveying the damage. This image later appeared in publications around the world.

This post was originally published on June 28, 2013.

June 1925: Exterior of Mission Santa Barbara following the 6.8 earthquake of June 29, 1925. This pho
June 1925: Exterior of Mission Santa Barbara following the 6.8 earthquake of June 29, 1925. George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
June 29, 1925: Truck crushed by falling brick walls on State Street in Santa Barbara following the 6
June 29, 1925: Truck crushed by falling brick walls on State Street in Santa Barbara following the 6.8 earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
June 1925: Damaged Arlington Hotel following the June 29, 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. This image
June 1925: Damaged Arlington Hotel following the June 29, 1925, Santa Barbara earthquake. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
June 29, 1925: Ruins of State Street store in Santa Barbara after earthquake. This photo was publish
June 29, 1925: Ruins of State Street store in Santa Barbara after earthquake. Los Angeles Times
June 29, 1925: Damage on State Street looking north from De La Guerra Street following Santa Barbara
June 29, 1925: Damage on State Street looking north from De La Guerra Street following Santa Barbara earthquake. Los Angeles Times
June 1925: Vehicle in Santa Barbara damaged by the June 29, 1925 earthquake. The small black dots on
June 1925: Vehicle in Santa Barbara damaged by the June 29, 1925, earthquake. The small black dots on left of image were caused by air bubbles not disloged properly during processing of the original 4-by-5-inch glass negative. Los Angeles Times
June 30, 1928: Telephone poles placed to brace the Southern California Telephone Building in Santa B
June 30, 1928: Telephone poles placed to brace the Southern California Telephone Building in Santa Barbara after earthquake. Los Angeles Times
June 30, 1925: Ruins of the Sheffield Dam three miles east of Santa Barbara following the June 29, 1
June 30, 1925: Ruins of the Sheffield Dam three miles east of Santa Barbara following the June 29, 1925, earthquake. George Watson / Los Angeles Times
July 1, 1925: Red Cross relief workers set up outdoors in Santa Barbara following earthquake. This p
July 1, 1925: Red Cross relief workers set up outdoors in Santa Barbara following earthquake. Los Angeles Times
July 1925: Temporary Chamber of Commerce office following the Santa Barbara earthquake.
July 1925: Temporary Chamber of Commerce office following the Santa Barbara earthquake. Los Angeles Times
June 1925: Santa Barbara residents living in tent following 6.8 earthquake of June 29, 1925. Handwri
June 1925: Santa Barbara residents living in tent following 6.8 earthquake of June 29, 1925. Handwritten on negative: "People living outside after quake, Santa Barbara." Handwritten information was often added on edges of 4-by-5 inch negatives for archival purposes. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
1926: Scaffolding surrounds the earthquake damaged Mission Santa Barbara during repairs to the famou
1926: Scaffolding surrounds the earthquake-damaged Mission Santa Barbara during repairs to the famous structure. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA

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