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Painted Ladies of Alamo Square
One of the more upscale sights in The Haight is a steep trek uphill on Steiner Street to Alamo Square. This small park is unremarkable in itself but its hilltop affords an unobstructed view of a row of postcard perfect painted Victorians with San Francisco’s modern skyline as its backdrop. Timing the photo is not easy with the best light coming late in the afternoon when red hues should bask the pastel painted beauties. But it’s also when the late afternoon fog rolls in like clockwork. Our first day there, the ladies were on display but there was nothing but a white mist as their frame. On a second visit, the city’s famous skyline was on display but the setting sun was behind some incoming fog. I guess I’ll have to go back again to capture it at its best. Not a chore when the Toronado is five blocks back downhill.
Got back again in 2008 and the sun was shinning though the city was not in view. A better show perhaps but not quite the one I want. When will I get back again? Hopefully soon!
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
You've probably seen an image of the Alamo Square Victorian houses long before coming here. When a director of a movie or sitcom wants to give the audience some hints that the action takes place in San Francisco, they show a few opening shots which are almost always the same: the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car, the Coit Tower, a steep street and the Victorian houses at Alamo Square. This image is one of the San Francisco signatures, appearing on postcards and on the covers of many guidebooks. It's also one of the most photographed views of the city. I guess what makes this viewpoint special, besides the six beautiful houses, is the background of the city downtown with its skyscrapers. The six Queen Anne-style houses were completed in 1895. They are very similar, I believe their beauty also resides in the little differences (it would have been less interesting to have 6 identical houses or 6 totally different houses).
If you came all the way here, don't stop at snapping a single picture and then walk away. There are many beautiful Victorian houses lining the streets around Alamo Square. The park is also a nice place to stroll.
Alamo square is a nice park is located at a great spot, atop a hill with a great view of the city (pic 1). There are some picnic tables to relax for a while, we enjoyed it very much while the sun was shining above us. The park was full of locals laying around and reading books, tourists holding their cameras like we did and many many dogs so don’t forget to check where you step, I know the mansions are beautiful but check the ground :)
Of course the main reason we came here was to see with our own eyes one of the most photographed places in SF, the view of the Painted Ladies, a row of six beautiful Victorian houses that have the city’s modern skyline at the background (pic2), a great constrast. Their pastel colors are beautiful but you can have them before sunset and not in the morning when we visited Alamo square. Anyway, it was nice and we enjoyed looking at the background trying to recognize some of the city’s landmarks.
- Budget Travel
If you want to save $ on postcards
Though you may have never been here before, you've seen Alamo Square a million times. A favorite postcard view - pictured on such TV shows as "Full House" and that horrible show with Brooke Shields (what was that called?) - no view is as quintessentially San Francisco as the famous row of 6 Victorians with the city skyline looming in the background.
Alamo Square is a 4-square block patch on the top of a hill just north of Haight Street in the Lower Haight neighborhood. The famous view is looking east, towards downtown. Surrounding Alamo Square on all sides are many beautiful houses, mostly of the "stick style," which was the 1880-1890 period, immediately preceding the Victorians. There aren't any cafes or anything on the square, but if you walk downhill to Haight St, or go downhill on Fillmore heading north, you'll find coffee and food.
The Zen Center is pretty close to here (I'll try putting a tip on it soon), and the Lower Haight is just down the hill.
Alamo Square is pretty safe at night, though it is close to an unsafe area a couple blocks downhill and to the East. This would be Buchanan Street - the designated crack dealing area. The corner of Page & Buchanan in particular should be avoided. There used to be some gnarly housing projects in this neighborhood, but the replacement housing has cleaned up the area considerably.
VERY IMPORTANT PHOTO NOTE - if you want to take some serious pictures here, come in the afternoon! The morning light is no good; the Victorian house-fronts will be in shadow.
Alamo Square also happens to be 3 blocks from my house. So if you're going to be in the neighborhood, send me an e-mail and I'll meet you for coffee!
Victorian Houses (Alamo Square)
If you have enough time, take a bus to Alamo Square. Here you will find the famous Victorian houses that you will recognize from either postcards or the "Full House" sitcom. It is a very nice sight to see these houses with in the back the modern San Francisco skyline.
This entire area is filled with Victorian style buildings, but remember that the area is rather remote if you want to combine it with other sightseeing activities.
Another of those most-phototgraphed places.
We'd missed this one on previous trips so it was time to get 'er done. Alamo Square is a nice little neighborhood park, bordered by Steiner, Fulton, Hayes and Scott streets, in an area full of beautifully renovated Victorian homes. Along Steiner Street is the row of "Painted Ladies" that have become one of the iconic images of the city as millions of shutterbugs have pointed a lens in their direction. For me, it's not so much the houses themselves but the interesting juxtaposition of bygone era and contemporary city that makes it so visually captivating.
The best time to shoot is in late afternoon/early evening/sunset with enough sunlight to illuminate the hues. It was overcast the day I was up here and it took an hour for that tiny break in the clouds - just long enough to squeeze off a few snaps.
The square is just 4 blocks north of the Lower Haight - nice area for a browse and also has some terrific architecture.
Alamo Square & The Painted Ladies
Alamo Square is actually a relatively small park but it has become famous thanks to the row of beautiful Victorian houses standing at Nos. 712-720 Steiner St. These "painted ladies", often referred to as the "Six Sisters", were built between 1892 and 1896. They have become a symbol of San Francisco's unique architecture and are often featured on postcards and promotional material for the city. The term "painted ladies" was coined in 1978 and it refers to Victorian and Edwardian houses that have been painted in several colors to bring out their architectural details. Apart from the famous Six Sisters, there are several other "painted ladies" in the Alamo Square area, so it's worth walking around with your camera close at hand!
Have a picnic at Alamo Square
Too many people do a quick drive-by or a quick 5 minute photo stop. Why not stop and really enjoy this most famous and beautiful view of the city? Of course from Alamo Square you have a great view of the so-called "painted ladies" (the painted ladies are the colorful Victorian houses you find along the street with the city skyline in the back), and you have a great view of the city skyline, with the pyramid shaped Transamerica Building not far from the tall brown tower of the Bank of America building.
I can also highly recommend walking around the square, because there are really quite a few other beautiful structures to be seen, as well as a magnificent view of the city hall at civic center.
There is an interesting website called Painted Ladies
and more information about Alamo Square to be found at the San Francisco and Tourist and Convention Buro website
The Six Sisters at Alamo Square
If you have time, plan a stop in Alamo Square for a shot of the "Six Sisters", the colorfully painted Victorian houses along its edge in front of a backdrop of the SF skyline. This is a view of San Francisco that many people have seen on TV (think "Full House"). In reality, the park is quite small, and for some reason the ground was pretty soggy. Also, very hard to get that typical shot without some other tourist stepping in the way.
A friend of ours who lives in SF was actually inside one of these houses, visiting a friend of his who lived there. So we're less than six degrees from the "Six Sisters."
Painted Ladies of Alamo Square
I find it fascinating to learn about a place a little more than just its name and address. It is much more interesting to look at something and actually know its history.. So, here it goes:
Before Alamo Square became a square, it was a hill used as horseback trail from Mission Dolores to the Presidio. In 1856 city Mayor James Van Ness set aside 12.7 acres and named it Alamo Square. It became a public park next year.
Nowadays Alamo Square Park is a part of Alamo Square Historic District (which includes about 280 properties). It happened in 1984.
BTW, alamo = poplar tree (in Spanish). Alamo Hill was covered with them in the early 1800s, hence the name.
As for six famous 'ladies', they were built between 1892 and 1896 during the Queen Anne style era. The developer, Matthew Kavanagh, living next door at that time, sold them for $3,500 each. Now they would go for at least $2 million.
Nowadays, these houses are referred to as: ''Six Sisters", ''Painted Ladies'', “Postcard Row” and G*d knows what else.. :-)
It is a popular spot because six Victorians, downtown and bridges behind them create a cocktail of old and new.
Just make sure you go there on a sunny day, if you want to become a happy owner of the famous shot.
To Get There: MUNI buses #5, 21 (runs on Market Str), 22 (runs on Fillmore), and 24 (runs on Divisadero).
NOTE: SF City Guides offers FREE guided tour of the park on the 1st & 3rd Saturdays of the month at 11am and on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month at 11am. Meet in front of 824 Grove Str.
- Budget Travel
See the "Painted Ladies" in their glory!
The Painted Ladies is the name given to a set of original and restored and painted up Victorian style row houses on the east of the grassed area known as Alamo Square.
To get to these famous San Francisco landmarks you need to take bus number 21 from along Market Street.
You won't be alone in photographing these buildings from Alamo Square. I wonder how the inhabitants feel about the hordes gawking at their homes.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Victorian Row at Alamo Square
The famous Victorian Row is located next to Alamo Square on Steiner Street. Maybe for the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge, it is the place where most pictures of San Francisco are taken from. The credits for the television series Full House are taken at Alamo Square. It is also found in alot of television shows and movies. What I like about this place is that you can see typical San Francisco victorian architecture with the skyline of the city in the background.
The Seven Sisters of Alamo Park
"Some people refer to them as The Seven Sisters, while some say The Six...but in any event these grand PAINTED LADIES have been photographed, filmed and ogled at by countless numbers (picures 1 & 2). They are the Victorians of Alamo Square Park.
As I snapped photos of these genteel beauties, our grandson climbed the low hanging branches at the park (picture 3) and someone loudly expressed his political thoughts -- sightseers gave him wide berth.
Behind the aged homes, the skyline of San Francisco loomed...contrasting the historically preserved and the intensely alive!
- Family Travel
It's the famous postcard row and probably one of the most photographed sights in San Francisco. I actually like the Victorian architecture a lot and those houses are a nice sight, but I'd also recommend you to walk around other streets. You might discover even more impressive or interesting Victorian homes in different styles.
You might also consider visiting Alameda where you'll find wonderful examples of Victorian architecture.
Alamo Square - A visual treat indeed!
One of the most beautiful Victorian is the Westerfield house on the corner of Fulton and Scott. This incredible 3 level spired corner Victorian is as much a museum inside and out as a living residence.
Corner Victorians tend to be the most palatial, as is typically demonstrated throughout the city. But anyway...the beauty of the park surrounded by the Victorians is indeed a visual treat!
- Historical Travel
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