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The following is excerpted from San Franciso's Lost Landmarks

The Schooner Parallel Crashes by the Cliff House

CLick on ME for a LARGER PICTURE On the afternoon of Thursday, January 13, 1887, the 98-foot schooner Parallel left Hay Wharf in San Francisco bound for Astoria, Oregon. She was loaded with kerosene, a cask of dynamite caps, and 1,685 50-pound cases (about 42 tons) of black powder. Exiting the Golden Gate, the ship ran into strong headwinds. By Saturday evening, the captain still fought for open sea, tacking against strong headwinds. The Parallel, gripped by the tide, slowly approached the Cliff House. Captain Miller ordered his men into the lifeboats and abandoned the ship at 8:30 p.m.

Mr. Wilkins, manager of the Cliff House, telephoned John Hyslop at the Point Lobos signal station an hour later to report a ship that was about to hit the rocks. Descending to the bluff below the signal station, Hyslop saw the ship was heading toward a small cove below the restaurant. Adolph Sutro, owner of the Cliff House, arrived with several of his gardeners. Under the direction of Hyslop, they lowered ropes to the ship below. When no one took the ropes, it was obvious the crew had abandoned the ship. The Parallel hit the rocks at 10:30 p.m. and began breaking up.

Click on ME for a LARGER PICTURE A life-saving crew arrived on the scene, but with no one to save, Captain Kroeger, the chief, put two members, Henry Smith and John Wilson, on watch. The crowd that gathered slowly dispersed, leaving just Smith and Wilson. At 12:34 a.m., grinding against the rocks, the cask of dynamite caps detonated, touching off the black powder and kerosene. The ship exploded in a deafening blast, shooting a great wall of flame and debris up the cliff. The explosion catapulted Smith and Wilson 200 feet back from their position at the cliff edge. The sound of the blast carried all the way to Oakland and San Jose. The shock wave struck the ship Commodore 15 miles off the Golden Gate. Its crew scrambled to their stations thinking they had struck a reef. Sutro's mansion took considerable damage, and houses nearby were nearly torn apart.

Click on ME for a LARGER PICTURE Both men caught in the blast had serious injuries, but they survived. The cliff face had forced the blast skyward, and the Cliff House had taken most of the brunt of the blast. The event destroyed the north wing and blew out every remaining window. Doors shot off their hinges and balconies inside and out collapsed. Each room was a mass of debris. Crowds gathered that morning to view the remains. Wilkins, spotting the opportunity, had one of the bars swept out and immediately opened for business. The bar had record sales that Sunday. Souvenir hunters had a field day looking for scraps of the Parallel.

Sutro ordered the reconstruction of the destroyed wing and repaired the Cliff House, returning it to full service. A chimney fire destroyed that incarnation of the Cliff House on the evening of Christmas day, 1894. Adolph Sutro used that event as an opportunity to construct his dream, the now famous French Chalet version of the Cliff House that reigned from 1896 until its loss to a fire in 1907, the year after the great quake.

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