The row of seven Victorian townhouses facing the east side of San Francisco’s Alamo Square, variously known as Postcard Row and The Painted Ladies, draws thousands of visitors each year to snap iconic photos, but rather than engaging in hit and run tourism, the area’s other architectural treasures and the park itself are also deserving of a look.
Alamo Square, a City park which lies at the summit of a hill west of downtown San Francisco, provides sweeping views of the beautifully ornate houses of Postcard Row with the City’s skyline in the background.
Postcard Row, 710-722 Steiner Street
The City-designated Alamo Square Historic District, which encompasses the eponymous park and all or parts of 18 surrounding blocks, contains approximately 280 buildings, mostly residential structures dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Besides the seven houses of Postcard Row, here are seven more picturesque sites in the historic district deserving of attention.
7. The Painted Ladies of Scott Street
705 to 711 Scott Street
While the term Painted Ladies is strongly associated with Postcard Row, it applies to any row of townhouses painted in multiple colors that highlight architectural details and collectively form an eye-catching palette. Along Scott Street another set of Painted Ladies face the west side of Alamo Square. Although their more famous sisters are thinner and more finely detailed, the Scott Street Painted Ladies consist of wider and, arguably, grander houses.
711 to 717 Scott Street
6. Grove Street View
Around the corner from Postcard Row, Grove Street extends east and slopes down toward downtown San Francisco. There are views of the street’s historic houses and apartment buildings and in the distance the dome of San Francisco City Hall. This is a vantage point one cannot get from the classic Postcard Row view.
5. Medieval Townhouses of McAllister Street
1378, 1384, and 1390 McAllister Street
Virtually every block in the Alamo Square Historic District has attractive townhouses. One example is a turreted row on McAllister Street between Steiner Street and Pierce Street, a block north of Alamo Square, which give the block a medieval feel.
4. Alamo Square Mansions
William Westerfled House, 1198 Fulton Street
Besides the townhouses, the historic district also features several mansions. One notable example is the 28-room William Westerfeld House at 1198 Fulton Street, built in 1889, which faces the northwest corner of Alamo Square. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another is 601-603 Steiner Street, one block south of Alamo Square. Built in 1891, since 1958 it has been an alcohol and drug addiction recovery center known as the Henry Ohlhoff House.
Henry Ohlhoff House, 601-603 Steiner Street
3. 700 Steiner Street
There are eight buildings along Steiner Street between Hayes Street and Grove Street; seven of them, numbers 710-722, comprise Postcard Row and the eighth is a 6-story apartment building at 700 Steiner Street. While Postcard Row gets all the attention, photographers usually exclude 700 Steiner Street. (Some purists do not consider 722 Steiner Street as part of Postcard Row due to its different architectural style, but unlike 700 Steiner Street it is often included in the group photos.)
But, 700 Steiner Street is worthy of appreciation. Built in 1927, about 30 years after Postcard Row, it typifies the simpler, yet elegant architectural styles that became prevalent in the early twentieth century as a counterpoint to the more elaborate Victorian era architecture styles.
2. The Other Apartment Buildings of Alamo Square
575 Pierce Street
There are several other notable apartment buildings besides 700 Steiner Street in the Alamo Square Historic District. They were developed later than most of the townhouses, generally between 1912 and 1934. This reflects a trend evident in many American cities in those years, as living in large single floor apartments in buildings with elevators and other amenities became the housing of choice for many wealthy city residents.
990 Fulton Street
Notable Alamo Square apartment buildings include 575 Pierce Street, 990 Fulton Street, and 625 Scott Street.
625 Scott Street
1. Alamo Square
Finally, do not overlook the area’s namesake. Alamo Square is a 12.7-acre park that functions as both scenic lookout and neighborhood green. It is landscaped with lawns, paths, playground, trees, and other vegetation.
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