There were two large earthquakes in 1952. The first earthquake with its epicenter near Tehachapi struck at 4:52AM on July 21. The 7.6 tremor killed fourteen people. It also did substantial damage to buildings not only in Tehachapi but Bakersfield as well.
Another quake followed August 22 at 3:42PM. It killed two more people. The earthquakes changed the architectural look of downtown Bakersfield. The Beale Memorial Clock Tower, the 1876 Kern County Courthouse (serving as City Hall in 1952), and the 1912 Kern County Courthouse were all seriously damaged. A new City Hall and Kern County Courthouse were built. The clock tower at 17th Street and Chester Avenue was seriously damaged and torn down. The clock tower was rebuilt in front of the Kern County Museum and dedicated December 13, 1964).
Bakersfield High School was also damaged just as we were beginning our freshman year. Tents were set up in the quad to provide temporary classrooms to replace those that were lost. All that remained of the boy's gym was the locker room. Basketball games were played in the country Rio Bravo School.
repair and later rebuilt at the Bakersfield Museum) and some tents used by stores like Brocks and McMahans to serve customers until their
buildings could be made safe. Click on the photo of the clocktower to view film made in 1952 following the first earthquake. View 29 minute silent video.
View video discussion of 1952 Bakersfield Earthquake - one of the largest aftershocks ever recorded in California - from local historian Chris Livingston. See a collection of images and video taken immediately after the event, and hear from a local who was 12 when it happened.
If you would like to view some other web sites describing the earthquakes click on the links below:
The White Wolf Fault and the Bakersfield Earthquake of 1952
Southern California Earthquake Data Center-- Kern County Earthquakes
USGS--Kern County Earthquakes