Victorian Homes of San Francisco

Victorian Homes of San Francisco

Author: Terry Way
Artist: Terry Way
Schiffer Books
ISBN #97-0-7643-3212-8

I have always had an interest in Victorian architecture, but this book was especially appealing to me because the location is San Francisco – a city that I greatly admire. Terry Way is a full time freelance photographer – he combines stunning photography with a great empathy for the environment and history of his subject in this work.

The book is divided into three parts: Part One (The Soul of the City) covers the history of San Francisco and Victorian visions. Part Two covers the different Victorian styles: Italianate, Flat-fronted Italianate, Bay Windowed Italianate, San Francisco stick-Italianate, Queen Anne. Part Three is a gallery of photographs that ocuses o the finer details of the architecture.

Knowing a bit about the history of these houses – in the environment of an Francisco – allows us to appreciate them even more. The terrain of the city is quite steep, with the city originally laid out in a stand checkerboard grid pattern. The steepness and the grid pattern do not necessarily make for easy building! Many of the builders of this wonderful city were European, and brought with them a sense of style and history that to date had not been seen in the American west.

New milling techniques allowed structures to go up faster, with more artistic characteristics. Redwood was cheap, plentiful and often used in building. This is the primary reason that so many of these Victorian structures have lasted, as redwood carries the ability to resist bugs and rot.

Originally these structures were painted either gray or white. In the 1960’s Haight/Ashbury lead the way in revitalizing Victorian homes. What was the foundation of this revitalization? They painted these houses lovely, bright colors! This is why Victorian houses carry the gentle acronym of “Painted Ladies”. Today we are moving towards a more refined look for our venerated Victorians – but they are still honored as a significant part of our history.

Way has photographed Victorian structures from all over the San Francisco area, giving us a good representation of what this city holds. The angles and depth of photography in this book are amazing. One of the first things that I noted were the windows – some of which showed graceful lace curtains that brought back warm memories.

The Gallery shows some of the finer points of these lovely homes. We see bay windows (I adore bay windows!), a weather vane of a Queen Anne tower, frieze on a San Francisco Stick home, decorations on Italianate homes and so much more!
This book is for anyone who loves Victorian architecture, San Francisco in general, and good photography. It sheds light on a lovely part of our past – and present.

© September 2009

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