Eureka, CA Earthquake, Dec 1954

Eureka CA Courthouse, 1909 destroyed by earthquake Eureka CA Street Scene, 1940s


EUREKA, Calif. (AP). - This northern California lumber port city and logging towns around it were violently shaken just before noon by a 2-minute rolling earthquake that caused one death.

At least 20 persons were slightly injured. The damage exceeded a million dollars.

The sudden shock at 11:57 a.m. PST hurled Carl Wilkerson, 42, into a lumber mill pond while he was eating lunch. He drowned.

Mrs. James Walsh, wife of a dentist, who had just given birth to a baby in Eureka's St. Joseph Hospital, rolled three feet across the delivery room floor on a table. Her new-born baby son spun in his bassinette in another direction. The stool shot out from under the attending surgeion, Dr. Ted W. Loring, who "thought the whole hospital was coming down."

Two boys, James Linier, 12, and Larry Devore, 13, who were trout fishing near Blue Lake, said they narrowly escaped being "swallowed up." They said the shallow creek in which they were wading parted to make a trench a foot wide and three feet deep.

Miss Iola Kennedy, an elevator operator, was trapped for more than an hour between the first and second floors of Eureka's Commercial Building when the temblor shut off power.

In West Eureka, the quake caused one earth crack eight inches wide and five feet deep. U.S. Highway 101 buckled between Eureka and Arcata.

Bottles, cans and goods in stores of a 6-block area in downtown Eureka were dumped on the floor; walls cracked; and the area was roped off.

Tuesday night Christmas shoppers were warned by Eureka's police chief to keep out of the area because of weakened walls.

Eureka's old city hall and the Humboldt County courthouse were so severely damaged that they had to be evacuated. The city council first scheduled an emergency meeting in the city hall, then held it elsewhere.

Radiators were ripped from the wall at Humboldt County community hospital.

A score of persons suffered minor cuts and injuries from falling debris or glass.

Nearly every building and home in this city of 25,000 was damaged, mostly superficially but adding up to a tremendous property loss.

It was the second-heaviest but most damaging of a series of earthquakes in the Far West in recent days.

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX, 22 Dec 1954


Eureka Earthquake 1954

In December 1954, another powerful earthquake jolted the city. Hugh cracks appeared in the courthouse's walls and ceilings; the courthouse was soon vacated and then demolished in 1956.

Courthouses of California: An Illustrated History By Ray McDevitt, California Historical Society