Painted Ladies in San Francisco

The Painted Ladies in San Francisco refer to colorfully painted Victorian row houses in the city and figure among the top attractions in town. From the mid-1800s to the early part of the twentieth century, nearly 50,000 Victorian and Edwardian-style homes were built in San Francisco. The surviving examples are what are referred to as Painted Ladies. The term was first applied to these historic homes in a 1978 book that is called Painted Ladies - San Francisco's Resplendent Victorians. The label of Painted Ladies has stuck ever since, and it is also used to describe some of the colorful Victorian-era homes that can be found in other cities, such as New Orleans and Cincinnati. The San Francisco Victorian houses are the country's most recognizable examples of Painted Ladies, which has something to do with the opening credits of the television show Full House.

Painted Ladies in San Francisco
Painted Ladies in San Francisco

There are lots of different Painted Ladies in San Francisco, and while all of them are impressive, there are a few that figure among the most famous. Postcard Row is the most iconic collection of Victorian houses in the city, and it was partly made famous by the television show, Full House. This show, which ran from 1987 to 1995, features a shot of these historic homes in its opening credits, and the image serves to cap off a series of other city shots that highlight San Francisco's beauty. To find Postcard Row, travelers can make a break for Alamo Square Park, which is bordered by Hayes Street, Fulton Street, Scott Street, and Steiner Street. The homes are strung together along 712-720 Steiner Street, and Alamo Park offers the best views. While viewing Postcard Row from Alamo Park, one can also see the downtown buildings rising up in the background. On clear days, the upper portions of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge can also be seen from this vantage point.

For some, viewing Postcard Row is one of the highlights of a San Francisco visit. The search for attractive Victorian homes shouldn't stop with these famous houses near Alamo Square, however. Other Victorian-era gems are strewn about town, and they include the very colorful ones that can be found in the renowned Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. On Nob Hill, tourists can also admire some impressive San Francisco Victorian houses. Many of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco can be found east of Van Ness Avenue, as this part of town was largely spared by the devastating 1906 earthquake. Visitors who are searching for more examples might also head to neighborhoods such as the Fillmore and Pacific Heights.

Even if tourists aren't actively searching for San Francisco Victorian houses, they are bound to come across a number of examples. Many of these homes are strung together, as is the case with the Victorian houses on Russian Hill, while larger examples like the C.A. Belden House in Pacific Heights stand alone. Regardless of where they can be found, the Painted Ladies in San Francisco are easy to notice, thanks to their colorful and intricate exteriors. The technique of applying different colored paints to bring out the nuances of these homes' architectural styles was pioneered in the 1960's by artist Butch Kardum. At first, some criticized Kardum's liberal use of colors, though thankfully, it didn't take long for most to recognize how brilliant this use of color could be.

Top image: Jamie McCaffrey (flickr)

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