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Meet San Francisco's Victorian "Painted Ladies"

San Francisco Victorian House Pictures

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Four fun ways to see them - inside and out

Italianate Style Victorian House

© Betsy Malloy 2001
This house, which is located at 1447 McAllister near Alamo Square is built in the Italianate style, characterized by wide eaves with brackets; tall, arched windows and often by flat roofs. It was probably built between 1840 and 1855.

It's only one of thousands of Victorian-style houses built in San Francisco during its booming growth time at the end of the nineteenth century. Many were lost in the 1906 fire, but a large number of original homes remain, primarily west of Van Ness Avenue. You can see them by driving around, especially in the historic district around Alamo Square (Steiner and Fulton Streets).

However, we can tell you from experience that a self-guided tour is probably not the best of ideas, what with one-way streets, impatient drivers and hard-to-find parking spots in the neighborhoods. Instead, a guided tour will give you better information and a more stress-free trip.

  • The Victorian Home Walk is a private tour company that offers a daily, 2.5-hour tour that includes transportation from Union Square and a visit inside a Victorian home.

  • San Francisco City Guides offers two free walking tours of the Victorian houses (donation appreciated). Occasionally, this tour takes you inside a beautifully-restored Victorian house, but this only due to the kindness of the owner and can't be guaranteed.

  • San Francisco Architectural Heritage runs the Haas-Lilienthal House, the city's only Victorian home museum and they also offer Saturday walking tours for a small fee. Their tours are the ones for you if you're a hard-core architecture nut who wants to hear a lot about styles and construction.

  • The San Francisco Victorian Alliance holds an annual open house each October, offering a rare chance to get inside several houses.
In case you're curious, according to Realtor Tara Donohue's website, this house sold for $700,000 in 2001.
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