The 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake: Arlington Hotel

"It all happened in a minute. The crash of falling timbers and steel beams and the walls of the hotel made an indescribable inferno of sound which dazed me. From the time I leaped from bed until I was crawling from under the collapsed building seemed but a moment. Trapped nearby was a dining room maid. She and I crawled to the lawn and a bellboy helped us to the street.

"My son probably never awakened from his sleep. His skull was fractured and his neck broken. It was best if he had to go that he go without suffering."

-G. Allan Hancock, quoted in the Santa Barbara News-Press, July 2, 1925

G. Allan Hancock was a millionaire who made his money in real estate and the oil business in Santa Barbara County. His son had recently graduated from college, was an accomplished amateur actor, and was planning to take over his father's business interests. On the night of the earthquake, father and son were staying in adjoining rooms on the third floor of the ritzy Arlington Hotel. The earthquake broke loose a water tank on the roof which then crashed through the son's room, apparently killing him instantly.

In a room below the younger Hancock's room was an elderly widow, Edith Forbes Perkins, 82. At the start of the shaking she called out in a panic to her maid who was in a room next door. Just as the maid managed to open the door between her room and her employer's room, the water tank came crashing down, leaving the maid looking out into empty space with a pile of debris below her.

Ironically, the water tank had been placed at the top of the building for safety reasons: with the tank at the top of the hotel, there would always have been water pressure in the event of a fire.


View the partially collapsed Arlington Hotel (45 kb)

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