Nearly 514 blocks of San Francisco, including much of Nob Hill and Van Ness Avenue, were destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. Many beautiful examples of nineteenth-century Victorian architecture were lost in the disaster.
Today some 14,000 Victorians have been preserved west of Van Ness Avenue in the Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights and Alamo Square districts. Distinguished by their design features, the three styles of Victorians include the Italianate, the Stick and the Queen Anne.
The Italianate which flourished in the 1870s is identified by a flat roof (often hidden behind a false front), slim pillars flanking the front door and bays with side windows that slant inward. These narrow row houses were patterned after Roman Classical ornamentation. Outstanding examples of the Italianate can be found at Bush and Fillmore streets.
The Stick, which peaked in popularity during the 1880s, added ornate woodwork outlines to the doors, frames and bay windows of the Italianate design. Other additions included the “French” cap, gables and the “three-sided rectangle” bays. View classic San Francisco Sticks at Laguna near Bush streets.
Designs changed dramatically with the Queen Anne Victorians in 1890. Turrets, towers, a steep and gabled roof, arches, spindles, glass art windows and sections of shingle siding distinguish the Queen Anne from her predecessors. Tour a grand Queen Anne, the Haas-Lilienthal House, located at 2007 Franklin at Washington. (Tours given Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday only.)
Postcard Row is possibly the most photographed spot in the City. These colorful Victorian houses or “Painted Ladies” with the San Francisco skyline in the backdrop have graced many postcards and movie scenes. Capture the view from the center of the park on the edge of Alamo Square at Steiner and Hayes streets.
In March 2014, the largest and oldest house of the Painted Ladies, on the corner of Postcard Row, sold for $3.1 Million dollars and is best know for appearing the opening montage of Full House, the popluar TV sitcom that aired from 1987 to 1995. The house next door was the former residence of Alice Walker, author of the The Color Purple.