San Francisco’s collection of Victorian houses, known as the Painted Ladies, is one of the city’s most famous assets. Most of the 14,000 extant structures date from the second half of the 19th century and are private residences. Spread throughout the city, many have been beautifully restored and ornately painted. The small area bordered by Divisadero Street on the west, Golden Gate Avenue on the north, Webster Street on the east, and Fell Street on the south—about 10 blocks west of the Civic Center—has one of the city’s greatest concentrations of Painted Ladies. One of the most famous views of San Francisco—seen on postcards and posters all around the city—depicts sharp-edged Financial District skyscrapers behind a row of Victorians. This fantastic juxtaposition can be seen from Alamo Square, in the center of the historic district, at Fulton and Steiner streets. A Victorian Homes Historical Walking Tour is a great way to stroll past, and learn about, more than 200 restored Victorian beauties. For a peek inside, check out the Haas-Lilienthal House. Built in 1886, this home is filled with period pieces and depicts a slice of life back in a more genteel time. All visitors must take a docent-led tour, which lasts about an hour. Reservations are not required.
- Erika Lennert