The Painted Ladies of Alamo Square
Most weekends, we can be found in the dog section of Alamo Square Park. It’s the perfect little walk from our apartment and Sully loves to romp around the off leash area. The square is also the setting for some of the most photographed houses in San Francisco, nicknamed “the Painted Ladies.”
“Painted Ladies” is actually a generic term used to describe Victorian or Edwardian houses painted in multiple bright colors. In the late 1800s, 48,000 houses in this style were built in San Francisco. Their architecture – with detailed brackets, corner turrets, and patterned glass - epitomizes the opulent gold rush era. Many of these houses were lost in the 1906 earthquake and many more painted surplus Battleship grey after WWII. It wasn’t until the 1960s that activists encouraged the revitalization and repainting of these historic houses throughout San Francisco.
The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square are model examples of the San Francisco Victorian. Climbing a little bit up the hill in front of the houses allows you panoramic views of San Francisco’s skyline. The developer of “Postcard Row”, Matthew Kavanaugh, could have never guessed that behind his houses 100 years later would be this glittering metropolis that includes the Transamerica Pyramid and the new Sales Force Tower. He also would not have been able to predict the thousands of tourists who flock to his front yard with cameras and selfie sticks. It provides for exceptional people watching. On a sunny day the park is great spot to bring a picnic and relax in the grass.
Besides being adorable gingerbread replicas, the other reason the Painted Ladies are so popular: Full House. In reality the actual Full House House is almost a mile away on Broderick. But the Painted Ladies make an unforgettable cameo in the opening credits of this 90’s sitcom. Seeing them always makes me incredibly nostalgic for the half an hour of TV I was allotted as a child to watch my favorite show. I always think to myself as we walk by: “What ever happened to predictability?...”
If you happen to be in the neighborhood soon, make sure you also check out the recent art installation in front of the empty lot just down the street from the Painted Ladies! There are eight large format canvases by famous street artists including Fnnch (who did my favorite one, Flamingos!). - Rebecca