If you’ve ever traveled to San Francisco, you most likely visited the iconic line of pastel Victorian homes known as the “Painted Ladies of San Francisco,” “Postcard Row,” or the “Seven Sisters.” The homes are found at 710-720 Steiner Street and are estimated to have appeared in over 70 films and television shows, with the show “Full House” being one of the most popular.
The painted homes are either Edwardian or Victorian styles and built between 1849 and 1915. Around 48,000 were built in San Francisco and sported bright colors to highlight intricate architectural details. Colors like yellow, orange, red, blue, and green were in style.
However, World War I and II changed the houses. Many were painted over in gray from leftover Navy supplies. 16,000 were demolished while others had the Victorian décor replaced or concealed with brick, stucco, or aluminum siding.
In the 1960s, the Colorist Movement began in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood and an artist named Butch Kardum worked directly with the homes that were still standing. He introduced intense blues and eye-catching greens to home exteriors in a way that highlighted the ornate architecture and delicate designs.
People had mixed reactions. Some criticized it and the unordinary color schemes while others were enthusiastic and wanted their own homes to be brightly colored. Kardum advised other prominent artists in the area like Jason Wonders, Tony Canaletich, and Bob Bucker on how to paint homes as well. By the 1970s, the movement completely transformed San Francisco.
Although San Francisco is the most well-known area for these unique houses, they’re located all over the country in other cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Cape May.
Baltimore’s “Painted Ladies” are in Charles Village. They differ from the ones in San Francisco by showcasing a variety of fun and distinct designs. In the late 90s, the neighborhood held a contest challenging residents and business owners to paint their homes funky colors to bring the vibrant community to life. These contests still occur every few years. Today, the homes are a popular attraction to visit or at least pass by.
The Victorian homes in Cape May, New Jersey were mostly built after a destructive fire in 1878. The homes have bright gingerbread trimmings and several serve as bed-and-breakfasts in the area. Homes in St. Louis’ Lafayette Square can be viewed on a house tour and showcase a slightly different style of Victorian architecture. Cincinnati’s “Painted Ladies” were established in 1788 in the city’s oldest neighborhood, Columbia Tusculum.
Kendra is a content writer with a BA in literature from Wilkes University. When she’s not reading up on the latest home decorating trends, Kendra is busy designing her future home, library included.