A new novel – A Race to Splendor

July 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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San Fransisco after the QuakeFor those of you who have traveled to San Francisco (and those of us lucky enough to live in the Bay Area), the building on the left is actually a familiar landmark:  the fabled Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

However, look closely…this is a vintage photograph from shortly after the catastrophic 1906 San Francico earthquake and firestorm that left some 250,000 San Franciscans homeless and living in the Presidio for up to two-and-a-half years, first in tents, and later in what came to be know as “earthquake shacks” — one room wooden structures that were marginally larger than outhouses!

My son bought me this image several years ago when I had been in the middle of writing my new historical novel A Race to Splendor. As you can see, the hotel itself–three days away from its official opening in April, 1906–survived the quake very well, on the outside, at least.  The brutal fire ripped through the interior, virtually melting everything in its wake, including the spectacular Tiffany atrium in the lobby.  Some of the floors fell  seven feet, and the structure was basically an empty shell, and an extremely challenging engineering project to put to rights.

The story of how the hotel was restored “reads like a novel” and so I wrote one!  The famous New York architect, Stanford White, initially won the commission, but then a very bad thing happened to him (if you don’t know your early 20th c. history, you’ll just have to read the book when it debuts in April, 2011, from Sourcebooks-Landmark on the 105th anniversary of the quake!), and Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, inherited the restoration job.

A Race to Splendor focuses on the whirlwind competition between hotels to get up-and-running by the first anniversary of the quake in April, 1907 to prove to the world that the City by the Bay would rise from the ashes, putting-to-lie those who said  she was like “Pompeii, never to rise again….”
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