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<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Outer Mission from Bernal Heights | © A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive / Flickr</a>
<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Outer Mission from Bernal Heights | © A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive / Flickr</a>

Outer Mission, San Francisco's Hidden Architectural Secrets and Mysteries

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 15 September 2017

At the turn of the 20th century, while most of the Western world was trying to recreate itself architecturally to reflect Rome, San Francisco was trying to go modern, and for a good long while, the City by the Bay was the top city for style and architecture inspiration. Its Outer Mission showcases the city’s architectural history with its progression of 20th-century homes styles.

Edwardian style

Edwardian homes, almost colonial takes on the Victorian, with fewer interior walls and “great rooms,” reigned supreme in San Francisco, particularly in Outer Mission. Once San Francisco began rebuilding following the devastating 1906 earthquake and fires, the strong and masculine Edwardian style rose from the ashes and seemed to be pop up all over the whole city, especially in Outer Mission. Since Edwardians didn’t differ too drastically from ancient temple architecture, however, it’s no wonder the trend seemed to die off and make way for a new, modern style.

Mission style

Mission District developed into its own style of architecture around the 1920s, and Mission-style homes came around during the city’s industrialization. Nostalgia began to seep in as the people of San Francisco struggled to adjust to these new ways of life, and the lives of missionaries (those who founded San Francisco) began to look more and more appealing, leading to an architectural revival. The Mission began to pay homage to its roots with homes that rocked the look of traditional Spanish missions, with little decoration on adobe and stucco façades.

Spanish Colonial style

In the late 1910s, elements of Mission style were reinterpreted as Spanish Colonial, used by developers to romanticize the western frontier and attract more settlers. The same nostalgia that struck San Francisco was used as marketing strategy to sell homes to curious Midwesterners. Today, Spanish Colonial is now the most influential style in California.

Craftsman homes

By the early 1900s, industrialization spread worry that nothing would ever again be handmade, or crafted. This fear of the loss of craftsmanship is the reason why ‘Craftsman homes’—handmade by skilled craftsmen, not machines—can be found all over the Outer Mission. The people of San Francisco preserved the Craftsman style by pushing them to art status; there is no added decoration, but the Craftsman home expresses the creation of house as an art.

Nowadays, this style is slightly ironic: as the Craftsman boasted and idolized handmade houses as better than the homes pumped out by machines and handed out to the rich, only the wealthy can actually afford these Craftsman-style homes today.

Edwardian homes are still highly concentrated in areas that were rebuilt after the fire, such as in SOMA, downtown, and Mission neighborhoods. Mission and Craftsman homes are found not only in the Outer Mission but also in outskirt districts like Glen Park, the Sunset, the Richmond, and Noe Valley.