On the southwest corner of Dolores Park sits a very fancy fire hydrant.
When San Francisco burst into flames in the days following the disastrous 1906 earthquake, much of the city’s network of fire hydrants failed. Miraculously this hydrant, nicknamed “little giant,” is said to have been the only functioning hydrant and is credited with saving the historic Mission District neighborhood from a certain fiery doom.
Painted with a fresh coat of gold paint each April 18, the fire hydrant above Dolores Park now stands as a testament to the fire department’s valiant efforts to save the city against almost insurmountable odds.
A memorial plaque reads:
“Though the water mains were broken and dry on April 18, 1906 yet from this Greenberg hydrant on the following night there came a stream of water allowing the firemen to save the Mission District.
Dedicated to chief Dennis Sullivan and the men who fought the Great Fire and to the spirit of the people of San Francisco who regardless of their losses brought our city from its ruins to be host of the world with their 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition and the building of our Civic Center.
May their love and devotion for this city be an inspiration for all to follow and their motto ‘The city that knows how’ a light to lead all future generations.”
In the years after the great quake, an entire new system of emergency water supply was created, known as the “Auxiliary Water Supply System” (AWSS) including a system of fireboats, underground cisterns and independent reservoirs. Now, a century later, it is in need of maintenance and updating before the next big one hits.
In 2012 the hydrant was accidentally painted silver, but it was quickly re-painted in its rightful gold color.