Don’t we all love architecture?

My mom loves the houses in this city. She visited several months ago (with my dad), and she really enjoyed riding around looking at the different styles of architecture. She suggested I write about it. Okay, fine…

One of the things I love about San Francisco is the lack of housing rules. I used to live in a neighborhood in North Carolina that had a multitude of rules to ensure the neighborhood looked perfect. All the time. I couldn’t paint my house any color but the 5 approved colors. I could only plant approved trees/bushes, and absolutely no trashcan was allowed out front (got in big trouble for that one). In San Francisco, there are no rules, and residents can paint their houses whatever color they want. As a result, the streets are more interesting and the city as a whole is more diverse.

Victorian House Architecture

Victorian architecture came from the period when Victoria was queen of England (1840-1901). The technology for bay windows (a window that projects out of the facade of a house) was invented during this time, so most of the houses were built with this new feature. The bay windows of this time were all the half-hexagon shape (I really don’t know how else to describe it). It’s the style made from three windows: a large picture window is flanked by two smaller windows on the sides at 30° angles.

Other characteristics of a Victorian house include, bright colors, steeply pitched roofs, pointed arch windows,  and gingerbread trim along the eaves. Victorians could not afford the elaborate trim of the Gothic Revival  and often built with a more modest form of decor. The most famous representations of the Victorian Era are the Painted Ladies (as seen on Full House) in San Francisco.

the painted ladies


Steep roofs:

Half-hexagon bay windows (or whatever they’re called…):

Gingerbread trim:

click to enlarge

Edwardian House Architecture

The Edwardian Era began when Queen Victoria died, and Edward VII became king in 1901. The period lasted until Edward died in 1920. Even though the period was short, there was a huge housing boom during this period, so a lot of houses can be found with this style. During Edward’s time, people were still loving those bay windows, but shifting more towards the square-shaped kind.

This architectural style was more subdued than its predecessor. Windows were squares and rectangles, roofs were flat instead of angled, and most of the details were un-complicated and maintenance-free.

Flat roofs:

Square bay windows:

Simple decorations:

I took most of these photos around Alamo Square Park and Haight Street. I looked up the history of this area and found out that it was heavily developed from 1883 to 1920. I’ll tell you the whole story some other time. It involves a railroad, an whatnot. But anyway, it makes sense that all the houses in this neighborhood are Victorian/Edwardian. The other neighborhoods in SF have their own architectural styles, and I will discuss that at another time, too. I especially want to tell you about the Sunset District sometime. So with that, I leave you with this quote:

“Architecture, in general, is frozen music.”
-Friedrich von Schelling


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