09.20.20: Painted Ladies

San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies, Victorian houses on Steiner Street,  as seen from Alamo Square Park.

San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies, Victorian houses on Steiner Street, as seen from Alamo Square Park.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: April 1, 2008, 3:53 p.m.
  • Location: 37°46'34.6"N 122°25'59.5"W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 40D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28-135 (75mm)
  • Aperture: f/18
  • Shutter: 1/400th second
  • ISO: 200

San Francisco’s Victorian houses photo friendly

I bet you've seen these houses before. They appeared in the opening credits of the television series "Full House." They've been photographed so frequently that they are often referred to as "Postcard Row."

It's one of San Francisco's most identifiable scenes, popping up as a background image for live news interviews from San Francisco or as local scenery for movies or TV shows based in the city.

These are the "Painted Ladies," a cluster of Victorian houses on Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square Park. They are called the "Painted Ladies" because of the multi-colored paint schemes that highlight the architecture on the houses that were built between 1892 and 1896.

I had a free afternoon on a business trip to San Francisco in 2008 and decided to add a photo of the "Painted Ladies" to my growing collection of travel photographs. The houses face west so I knew the afternoon sun would provide the best lighting for the photo.

Alamo Square Park was about a 45-minute walk from my hotel if I didn’t stop. I decided to turn it into a city photo hike, so I planned for an hour to allow time to get some photos on the way to Steiner Street. 

When I arrived I stood on the hillside in Alamo Square Park and grabbed a variety of photos from different angles. My favorites were this one and a six-photo panorama. Both showed the Victorian houses with the San Francisco skyline in the background.

I was only in the park about 20 minutes. The scene is relatively simple to shoot, so it was just a “get the shot and move on” visit. Then I took another leisurely walk back to the hotel, following a different route to get different photos. I was back at the hotel in plenty of time to clean up for a dinner appointment.

Not a bad way to spend part of a San Francisco afternoon.

By the way, the house at 714 Steiner St. (second from right in the photo) sold earlier this year for $3.55 million, $800,000 above the asking price. According to the listing agent, the house was considered a “fixer-upper” that required a full interior renovation. The listing shows four bedrooms, 2.5 baths in 2,849 square feet of living space on a 1,742 square foot lot. In other words, the footprint of the house pretty much covers the entire lot.

They are called the ‘Painted Ladies’ because of the multi-colored paint schemes that highlight the architecture on the houses that were built between 1892 and 1896.