Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies
San Francisco provides an infinite number of images waiting to be captured, making the city a magnet for amateur and professional photographers alike. One of San Francisco’s most-photographed locations is Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies, the Victorian houses known as Postcard Row.
These half-dozen ornate houses, sometimes referred to as the “Six Sisters,” have appeared in countless postcards, movies, and television shows, not to mention innumerable tourist snapshots over the years. Digitized or captured on film, the “ladies” often appear in a picture’s foreground, with the Bank of America building, the Transamerica Pyramid, and the rest of San Francisco’s modern skyline as their backdrop. Located at 712 to 720 Steiner Street across from Alamo Square, all six houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh owned and lived in the 1892 Victorian mansion to the left of the “Six Sisters” at 722 Steiner.
The area is filled with lovely Italianate, Stick/Eastlake, Gothic Revival and Queen Anne-style Victorian houses. An historic Gothic Revival sits on the northwest corner of Alamo Square. McAllister Street, one block north, is lined with restored Victorians. The locale is designated as the Alamo Square Historic District, and city agencies and neighborhood groups safeguard architectural preservation. Many buildings, like the famous Steiner Street sextet, survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Take the time to admire the ornate craftsmanship that went into the design and building of the neighborhood’s dwellings—bay windows, “gingerbread” woodwork, and the occasional turret. And grab a jacket before you head out to capture that perfect picture—Alamo Square is one of the windier places in San Francisco. If Postcard Row looks familiar its probably because you’ve seen it on a postcard someone sent you from San Francisco or more likely on TV—the picnic in the park in the opening credits for 1990’s sitcom Full House or the Netflix series “Fuller House”—or in a movie—Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) or The Woman in Red (1984).
The park is popular with locals because it is clean and well kept with a playground for kids, one un-lighted tennis court, a shoe garden and large area for dogs. Alamo Square is not just for viewing the “Painted Ladies,” it’s also a great place for relaxing and dog and people watching even if most of them are taking pictures of Postcard Row.