RSS Feed

SF City Guides ‘Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square’ Walking Tour

Posted on

As Part 2 of motivation to do more, this morning Rachelle, Jackie, Emily and I took a free walking tour of Alamo Square! First of all, our guide was totally adorable. She is obsessed with the Victorian era and knew every tiny detail about it’s architecture and about the victorian era in SF. It was a 2 hour tour that covered around 20+ houses all built between the 1870s and 1890s. Which is pretty impressive considering the 1906 earthquake, but the majority of that damage took place East of Van Ness St (downtown, civic center, china town, nob hill, north beach etc etc). She went through the 3 decades and how they each had their own unique style. The 1870s = the Italianate, the classical look with columns and detailing and the big bay windows and false fronts. The 1880s = Stick, which is more of the exuberant, lots of bright colors, kind of busy looking and the 1890s = Edwardian Style, lower ceilings so shorter wider windows, curved corners as well as the Queen Anne Style, the ones with towers and details like sunbursts can be seen everywhere..but is much more rounded looking and soft. Just the history she had on the houses were amazing. The transformations they’ve seen. The common theme was they were homes, then at one point a JCC or a drug rehab center, and during the 60s they were all, as she called, ‘psychedlic’ houses. I think it’s better when you see them….. I’m going to be a total nerd and recap my walk…..

img_3433These are all Italianate style, on the left you can see how there is a false front on the house. The roof doesnt actually match up with the front which gives them a vertical look and they all have columns and bay windows.

img_3434img_3435Jackie and our tour guide Ellen

img_3438John Koster Mansions. Built 1897 for $10,000. The big porch on the right was built as a front door, then houses eventually were built off to the right. It was a JCC then taken over by the military and is now a multi unit apartment building.


img_3442“Postcard Row”, “Painted Ladies”. “7 Sisters” or my favorite…”the Full House houses”. All Queen Anne style houses, built in 1890s.

img_3441This man lives in one of the painted ladies and came out with this picture which was taken the day after the earth quake. The square is there, the houses are there and behind it is all the smoke from the fire. Pretty impressive. And so nice of him to come out and chat with us!


img_3448The yellow house added on the garage for close to 3,000 and redone in 2004. It now has 16 rooms! These are both Queen Anne Style, the left has a ‘witch cap’ tower and the right has a ‘candle snuffer’ tower.

img_3450This is called the ‘Hippie House’. Built in 1888, Stick Style (like the long pieces of wood between the window frames) for $4.300. This is the original Painted Lady. To be called that, it is just a house that is painted three or more colors. In 1965 for $7,000 an artist bought the house and painted it 16 ‘psychedelic’ colors. There was a rumor she would let anyone who wanted to come by and paint it any color they wanted. Also inside there are murals all over the ceilings and walls, all but one which were painted over. We saw a picture of it and it was nuts. The house was bought in 1993 for $360,000 and has been restored and is currently on sale for 1.3 million dollars.

img_3452Side View of Chateau Trivoli, built 1892, Queen Anne Style, now a B&B

img_3459Front View

img_3457The continuing row of houses, called The Seattle Block

img_3455img_3456What I like most about this row of houses was when you walk behind it, the backs of all the houses are painted white and have zero decorations. It’s all for show!

img_3463This house has always been one of my favorites, its along the 5 bus route that would take me from school to downtown. It’s on the row of houses that is the longest continuing row of Victorian Stick style.

img_3464This house is amazing. It’s huge! It was built in 1889 for $10,000. It had the first garage addition in San Francisco, Was adapted between the 1920s to 1986 (where is was bought by the current owner for 750,000 as a single family home), it was a JCC then at one point hippies bought it and they kept a lion as a pet! Claw marks can still be seen in the house. And they used the tower as a ‘meditating room’ which had 300 candles burning always at one time. Ah yes, and this tower was also where Marconi made his first transmission to the East Bay. So much history in one place.

img_3466‘Misguided improvements’ when people were over the Victorian era int he 20th century, they stripped all the decorations and details…cornices, windows, trims, proches, and replaced it with clay tiles..aluminum windows. The windows are horizontal which is the opposite of how these vertical houses were meant to look. Pretty funny to see after staring at all the beautiful architecture all day! What was great too, is the side view of it still has all the original design.


img_3469And that’s the end!!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: