Meet San Francisco's Victorian "Painted Ladies"
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.
Alamo Square "Postcard Row"
The row of nearly-identical Victorian houses so often photographed with the city skyline behind them are located between 710 and 722 Steiner Street. The park on the hillside above is where the family picnic in the opening scene of the television program "Full House" was shot. Don't get too carried away trying to find that house with a red door and a fictitious address, though. Even though film magic makes it seem like the family walks into one of the row houses, the actual house shown as theirs is some distance away. You'll find out where it is in the next photo.
This scene faces east, making afternoon or evening twilight the best time to try to get your own photograph. However, the hill throws the houses into shade earlier than you might think. To get there, take Geary Blvd. west from downtown and turn left on Steiner Street. By public transportation, San Francisco MUNI bus line 21 stops right next to the park and line 5 stops a block away on McAllister Street.
The Full House House
If you love the opening scenes of Full House or the 2016 Fuller House and want to see their locations in San Francisco. You can find it online.
Mrs. Doubtfire House
Located at 2640 Steiner (corner of Broadway and Steiner) in San Francisco's prestigious Pacific Heights neighborhood, this Queen Anne style house was home to out-of-work cartoon voice-over artist Daniel Hilliard (played by Robin Williams) until his estranged wife threw him out. Disguising himself as Scottish housekeeper and nanny Mrs. Iphegenia Doubtfire, he gets a job caring for his own children.
To get there by car, drive west on Broadway to Steiner Street. The house in on the southeast corner and faces west. By public transit, the #22 MUNI bus goes there.
Party of Five House
The house, featured in the television show Party of Five is just down the street from the Mrs. Doubtfire house, at 2311 Broadway. Critically acclaimed and a Golden Globe winner, the program - which starred Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell in an ensemble cast - lasted six seasons.
Pacific Heights Movie House
The house where Michael Keaton's character Carter Hayes ruins his landlords' lives in the 1990 film Pacific Heights isn't in the neighborhood its title suggests. Instead, it's at the corner of 19th Street and Texas in the Portrero Hill area.
Graham Nash House
Built in 1897 for a nephew of Richard Spreckels (of Spreckels sugar), this house's residents have included writers Ambrose Bierce and Jack London, who wrote his book White Fang while living here.
According to the book The Musical History Tour, Gene Estabrook ran an eight-track recording studio out of the house in the 1960s, where Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Steve Miller Band both made their earliest records.
In the 1970s, it was home to singer Graham Nash of the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
It's at 737 W Buena Vista in Haight-Ashbury. It's not the only rock and roll house in the neighborhood.
This unusual-shaped, eight-sided house was built in 1861 and was one of only five such houses ever built in the city. The shape chosen is based on amateur architect Orson Squire Fowler's theory that it would help its occupants live longer.
It's a 2645 Gough (near Washington) and is open to the public a few days a month.
Built in 1886, located at 2007 Franklin Street, the Haas-Lilienthal House is San Francisco's Victorian house museum, your chance to see what one of these beauties looked like inside.
First Hippie Commune
Built by William Westerfield in 1889 at a cost of $9,985 and converted into a 14-unit apartment building in 1948, this great example of San Francisco Gothic Victorian style may have been one of the first 1960s "hippie" communes according to the book Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. In that book, author Tom Wolfe described it: "Up at Fulton and Scott is a great shambling old Gothic house, a freaking decayed giant, known as The Russian Embassy."
In 1967, underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger lived here, making a movie called Invocation of My Demon Brother, which starred Charles Manson family member Bobby BeauSoleil and featured music by Mick Jagger. Despite what some ill-informed tour guides may say, Manson himself did not live here.
In 2010, the Zillow estimate of its value was $1.4 million. In 2017, that had increased to $3.5 million. It's located at 1198 Fulton Street, at the corner of Alamo Square Park at the intersection of Fulton and Scott.