August 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I come bearing a history lesson…if you hate history then you can think of it more as a fun fact lesson.

The Victorian era is the most evident style that plagues San Francisco. The Victorian era occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901), and lasted beyond her death until the beginning of World War I in 1914. Queen Victoria identified herself with the middle class, so the furniture was made for the increasing middle class. Due to industrialization, the people were able to decorate with mass produced goods for the first time. These pieces mimicked costly materials without the same expense. The proportions are clumsy and have fantastic ornamentation. Dark woods and strong colors held the integrity of the furniture. The people wore more elegant clothing with lace and frills and they put an emphasis on fashion and proper demeanor which showed heavily in the architecture of this time.

Victorian homes were a symbol of taste and status. Four styles made up what was called “Victorian.” 1) Italianate  2) Second Empire  3) Stick-Eastlake  4)Queen Anne.

Following the Civil War, the homes left their simplicity behind and became more elaborate and flamboyant. The early homes were painted in white, beige or gray and in only one solid color. By 1887, other vibrant colors were being used to highlight the wooden decorations. Between 1870-1906 thousands of Victorian homes were built in San Francisco known as the “Painted Ladies.”

The three characteristics of  a “Painted Lady” are: 1) painted in three or more colors that embellish  2) made of redwood  3) mass produced.

On Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park are the most well known of the Victorian houses is “Postcard Row.” Built between 1892 and 1896 by Matthew Kavanaugh, they have appeared in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and ads, including in the opening credits of the series Full House. 

Skateboard picture: abduzeedo

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