After I'd seen the best of what Nob Hill had to offer I wandered the nearby streets of Huntington Park and came across these little jewels.
Fondest memory: I love strolling and checking out architecture; not because I am an architect but it makes cities such a more pleasureable place if you take in the gems that you see here.
Instead of being fixated on the next box you have to tick off you can thoroughly enjoy yourself just taking notice of what's around you that your travel agent never told you about. Enjoy.
One of my favourite things to do while in San Francisco was riding the cable cars and admiring the colourful and beautiful houses. I was very impressed by the architecture and the uniqueness of San Francisco homes relative to other homes in the U.S. Traveling up and down San Fran's hills I really got to appreciate the people that live in these houses, maybe being a little envious of them. They have great views of San Francisco, beautiful and well trimmed trees lined up along their streets, each home colourful, unique and different from the one next to them. Who wouldn't be just a little jealous of them, living in such a great city?
There were also some buildings that caught my eye. Like the Westin St. Francis Hotel in front of Union Square on Powell St. It looks majestic with three columns jutting out and two inner courtyards, it resembles a palace. And looking out over Union Square, it's in the perfect location. Other beautiful and innovative buildings are Macy's, Coit Tower, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and the TransAmerica building.
So when in San Francisco make sure to take the time out to admire everything around you.
Although the term can also be used to describe loose women, San Francisco's famous Painted Ladies are multi color houses built during Victorian and Edwardian times (roughly the mid 1800s to about 1915), most frequently in the 3 story Queen Anne style. We didn't see the most famous of the painted ladies in Alamo Square, 712-720 Steiner Street, but I think they actually look kind of dull compared to the ones we stumbled across in the Haight Ashbury district although they do appear to be easier to photograph without the annoying overhead wires. Technically a painted lady must be painted in three or more colors, they also usually have a lot of architectural embellishments making them look like gingerbread houses.
Don't ask me what streets we were on when I took these photos but all of them were just a block or two off Haight Street to the east of Ashbury.
Photo 1 is the grandest of all the painted ladies we saw as it sits on a corner and you can see the entire house, not just the front facade plus it's painted in a bazillion colors, not just the minimum three.
Photos 2 and 3 are the more typical painted ladies in the 3 story Queen Anne style
Photo 4 are the most brilliant houses we saw, some people might think they are a little garish but I think they are fabulous
Photo 5 is a store on Haight Street
San Francisco is home to many unusual looking buildings. One such structure is the former armory. This historic brick building resembles a medieval fortress, complete with towers and battlements. Many of its windows are mere slits, resembling the olden openings of castles designed for firing arrows. A number of bricks protrude from the face of the building giving an illusion that the walls can be scaled.
The building has been retired as an armory for several years. A developer purchased the property with the intent of converting it to housing. This met with strong neighborhood opposition. A seconded planned use was during the dot com bubble where it was proposed that the old building be converted for use by internet business. Again the neighborhood mobilized to stop another use deemed to be unacceptable by them.
The frustrated developer recently sold the property quietly. It was purchased by a company specializing in adult films that are distributed over the internet. The purchase price exceeded fourteen million dollars. The new owner, although complying with the City's planning codes, minimized public input. When the new owners announced their plans to move from a warehouse a few blocks away into the building, the neighborhood was outraged. However, as all was legal and it was now unrelated to the government's transfer of the property, no means existed for the neighborhood to block the occupancy.
The new owners have occupied the buildings and apparently are giving the old armory some long needed deferred maintenance. They are apparently slowly acclimating into their new surroundings. Their announced intent is to convert the building into general use sound stages for use by more mainstream film companies.
Fondest memory: The pirate flag flying over the armory and the body hanging from the flagpole are Halloween decorations. I did a double take when I first saw them. Typically the U.S. or California state flag can be seen flying over the armory.
The building is located at Mission and 14th Streets. It nearly occupies an entire city block. There is no public access.
The Old US Mint in San Francisco was constructed in 1874 iin Greek style, and survived the 1906 earthquake. The mint played a key role in the Gold Rush, and at one time its vault held two thirds of the US gold reserves. In 1937 the Old Mint, which was ranked by the General Services Administration as the second most important government building in the country for its historical and architectural significance, closed to be replaced by a new mint. This was the second of three mints in San Francisco; the original San Francisco mint went into use in 1852, and the new US Mint is still in use, manufacturing regular proof and silver proof coin sets.
The Mint Project is underway, which will take the beautiful but abandoned Old Mint building, and remodel it for use as the Museum of San Francisco and the Bay Area, the American Money Museum, a proposed new location for the San Francisco Visitors Information Center, a Museum Store, several dining and retail venues, and rental space for events and cultural festivals. The Mint Project also includes conversion of Jesse Street into a pedestrian area called Mint Plaza, closed to traffic and redesigned to accommodate a wide range of uses, including art, live music, cafés, and street fairs.
The Old Mint is located in SOMA at the corner of Mission and 5th Streets, easy walking distance from Union Square.
Favorite thing: I was impressed and intrigued by the range of architecture in San Francisco. This picture is from the Marina district, where art-deco style (I think) houses dominate. This is a quiet neighbourhood and seemingly off the beaten trail, so it's nice to stroll around and take photographs.
Driving around the neighborhood west of Van Ness Avenue, you will find beautiful maintained Victorian style houses along Pacific Heights, Western Addition, Haight and Fillmore.
These are elegant homes that were safe from the fire that broke out after the 1906 Great Earthquake.
There are six of Victorian houses in a row made famous and are called "Painted Ladies" of San Francisco. See if you can find them when you are there.
San Francisco is truly a city for architectural hounds. There are many areas filled with beautiful buildings or detailing that helps create the romantic image of San Francisco.
Fondest memory: Take in these buildings:
Painted Ladies ~ Take in the highest concentration of Painted Ladies in the city by wandering the area bordered by: Divisadero St., Golden Gate Avenue, Webster St, and Fell St. The most recognizable of these are the buldings at Alamo Square, made even more famous on the US tv series "Full House".
City Hall and the Civic Centre ~ Built in 1881, this whole complex is done in Beaux Arts Style. The dome on city hall rises to 308 feet; inside there is a breathtaking marble staircase.
The Castro Theatre ~ Located near Castro and Market Streets, this theatre was built in the 1920's to show silent pictures -- the box office is still located outside and yes, there is even an organ located at centre stage. To take in the interior, you generally must go to a movie, but trust me, it is truly gorgeous inside.
There are many walking tours you can take of these areas, just inquire at the tourist information centre.
For More Information:
San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau
900 Market Street
This building is located on Sansome Street near California. Established in 1882 as the San Francisco Stock and Bond exchange, it is actually the World's first exchange market in SF with the mission "To maintain a free and open market wherein the investor could convert his cash into securities and his securities into cash at will, at a fair and honest price.."
In 1957, it merged with the exchange market in Los Angeles to be known as the Pacific Stock Exchange.
Today, it is a lesser known market as Wall Street's "Dow Jones" is the market the world pays the most attention to.
I love wandering around on 'urban hikes' through all the diverse neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has unique archictecture and ethnic cultures. If you love Italian food and culture there's North Beach. It's tiny streets are full of great bakeries and coffee houses, plus an abundance of great Italian cafes. The Mission has tons of great and cheap taco stands and lots of lively street people. Chinatown looks like another country and you can walk around finding great dim sum and noodle houses. Or just try and guess what all the strange looking foods are hanging in windows or being haggled over by the locals. Then there's Pacific Heights and Russian Hill with their beautiful Victorian mansions and streets with great shops and restaurants. Cow Hollow and the Marina are fun places to shop and grab food, too. Noe Valley is tucked away in the sunny part of the city and has lots of little book stores, cafes and shops as well. There's the Haight, with it's street kids, funky clothing and jewelry shops. The Richmond is sometimes called New Chinatown and has a rich Russian community as well. No matter which neighborhood you visit - you'll be seeing the real San Francisco and not just what the guide books sell you.
Fondest memory: When I'm away, I miss the local corner stores, the unique mom&pop shops and just being able to walk around my neighborhood in Pacific Heights and find just about any type of food I could want and everything else I need as well. No cars needed here!
Favorite thing: The $246 million project features the renovation of the historic six-story Earl Warren Building at 350 McAllister Street, closed after the Loma Prieta earthquake; and the finished construction of the Hiram Johnson State Office Building which replaces the state office building at 455 Golden Gate Avenue. The complex will house more than 2,100 state employees from 11 agencies.
San Francisco style spans decades from the Victorian homes on Alamo Square, to the stately stone buildings from the turn of the century, to the wooden homes and stucco apartments.
While you're sitting in an outdoor cafe or walking along a side street, take a good look at the houses and buildings. You'll notice a lack of uniformity (it's San Francisco, why would it go for uniformity?) and eclecticism that works well together.
Admire the elegant marble, ornate carvings, lighting from the skylights and the huge marble staircase inside City Hall.
City Hall was extensively damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Years of reconstruction and seismic retrofitting has been completed so City Hall should now withstand a major quake.
This picture shows the entrance on the second floor to Mayor Gavin Newsom's office. On the ground floor are couples and families celebrating wedding days.
City Hall is referred to as the "Crown Jewel" of San Francisco. It was built in 1915 in Beaux Arts style and is now a National Historic Landmark. The architect was Arthur Brown Jr., who also designed the Opera House, Veterans' Building, Temple Emanuel, Coit Tower and 50 United Nationals Plaza.
The dome is 306 feet high and the building itself contains 500,000 square feet of floor space.
City Hall is the location of many high profile weddings, including Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, and most recently thousands of same-sex couples.
Favorite thing: Stanford University located in Palo Alto should not be missed for the unique architecture of its buildings. The architecture can be considered as a "Mission-style" architecture with probably a Spanish/Mexican feel, just like those of many California missions. Besides that, this is one of the most famous universities in the United States ranked high in many academic areas. If you are a student, this university is a must-see!