These spots dot many neighborhoods and attract shutterbugs looking to add a heavy dose of color, history, and whimsy to their social channels in the City by the Bay. Architecture buffs and visitors can find examples of Victorian building styles in almost every SF neighborhood, but here are a few places where the area’s signature architectural era looms extra large.
Some of the most famous shots of San Francisco’s famous Victorians in TV, movies, and tourism brochures come directly from the streets surrounding Alamo Square. Full House fans would recognize the picturesque Painted Ladies lining Steiner Street at the park’s eastern edge from the ’90s sitcom’s opening credits (the Tanners enjoy a perfectly San Franciscan picnic in the square).
Nearby, other houses with styles dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century include the intricately detailed 1898 William Westerfeld House at the corner of Scott and Fulton streets. That property in particular is steeped into uniquely San Franciscan history. In the late 1920s, it housed a Russian nightclub in the lower level. In the ’40s, it was home to a number of up-and-coming jazz musicians. In the psychedelic ’60s, several communes reportedly moved in. Moral of the story: The Westerfeld House and the rest of Alamo Square’s storied structures make for the perfect ‘Gram.
Elsewhere in The Haight
The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is synonymous with the ’60s hippie era, but many of its buildings reflect a much earlier period in their architecture. In fact, the corner of the titular Haight and Ashbury streets strikingly exemplifies a turn of 20th century style layered with ’60s spirit and the still-free-loving vibe of today’s Haight. Classic bay windows, first used to up the square footage in San Francisco’s narrow rowhouses in the population boom of the Gold Rush, still tie together buildings in the neighborhood. Other details, like ornate trims and a full rainbow of house colors—fitting in an LGBTQ-populated section of the city—are also on full display for visitors’ Instagram feeds.
Along the charming streets of Noe Valley, architectural admirers are just as likely to swoon over a sleek contemporary home as a carefully-restored mansion decked out in Victorian touches. The houses here are examples of Victorian styles from the ornate Eastlake properties to folksier takes on the genre. Some of the neighborhoods more decorative addresses include houses like the 1900 Victorian “sisters” that feature elaborate stained glass, fireplaces, archways, trim, and other high period details.
The lively Mission neighborhood is filled with Victorian gems. One of the photo-friendliest examples sits at the corner of 21st and Guerrero streets. The three-story Queen Anne-style mansion dates back to 1895 and was once home to Daly City founder, John Daly. Daly himself found success creating his namesake neighborhood in the wake of the 1906 earthquake, but like many of the iconic Victorians across the city, this property survived the devastation other buildings faced. Colorful shingles and swirling carved moldings make the place look like a frilly dollhouse or tiered wedding cake—in other words, a destination aspiring photographers won’t want to miss.