San Francisco is filled with countless colorfully painted Victorian homes known as painted ladies. But there is one row of homes that are particularly famous, so much so that on my hotel’s free city map they’re labeled as the “Painted Ladies.”
As a kid growing up in the early 90s I was first introduced to them during the opening credits of the TV show Full House. But even though I’ve visited San Francisco several times since then, I had never actually seen them in real life. So, when I was scheduled for a 24 hour SFO layover for work this week, I decided to check them out.
It was perfect weather and a beautiful 40 minute stroll to get there from my hotel. As I roamed in and out of various neighborhoods along the way, I was impressed with the seemingly endless number of streets peppered with rows of old Victorian homes.
They were covered in colorful clapboard with large bay windows. Some had steeply gabled roofs featuring delightful dormers. Others had delicately milled railings and decorative panels. Columns adorned intricately framed porticos, entryways, and windows. Each home stuck to its own multi–hued color scheme with brights or white accenting the frills. And yet somehow each row came together as an aesthetic whole greater than any individual home within it.
When I arrived at the painted ladies of Full House (and my hotel map) fame, I was surprised by how ordinary they at first seemed. There wasn’t anything in particular that stood out about these painted ladies from all the rest. In fact, many I had seen on my walk there had been more elegant, more colorful, or more varied. Not to say that these weren’t also delightful, just that they didn’t seem special.
Still, I came all this way, so I climbed the small hill in the park facing them to get a more full view. When I turned around to face them again, I couldn’t help but smile.
The small gain in elevation revealed a phenomenal view that had previously been hiding behind the painted ladies at street level: the city of San a Francisco and its bay beyond gleaming in the autumnal sunlight. It was picture perfect, which is probably why this particular row of painted ladies is also known as Postcard Row. This is also what makes these particular painted ladies so special.
If you go: The Painted Ladies at Postcard Row are located on Steiner Street at Alamo Square. The square is located about halfway between the San Francisco Civic Center and Haight–Ashbury. It’s a pleasant 20 minute walk from either, in neighborhoods filled with postcard-worthy painted ladies.
Also, make sure to climb the hill in the park for the best views. It’s worth it.
— Laura Rowley