Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review - San Francisco's Sunset District

I recently bought a copy of San Francisco's Sunset District, by Lorri Ungaretti. It is full of historic photos. The one that I find most amazing is of 19th Avenue when it was a dirt road. I was also shocked to see a photo of "Bea" Lassiter when she owned Polly Ann Ice Cream. I've been acquainted with her for years and had no idea. Here's a story about Polly Ann, by the way.

I learned quite a bit of the history of the Sunset. But the photos are the highlight. One of the things I like to do is picture intersections as they were 50, 75, or 100 years ago. Now I can take my copy of the book out on my walks.

If you decide to order one, why not get it from The Western Neighborhoods Project?

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Wow is this place bright!

But you know, on an overcast or foggy day it isn't quite as jarring. In fact, I like the way the colors of all the homes are muted on a foggy day, yet stand out without competition from the sun.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Garage Doors

Another thing I like are original garage doors like this:

And this:

Especially when the details have been painted, the door hasn't just been coated in one color.

No surprise, 1970's looking garage doors are not my favorite:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thanks for the Effort

I noticed this building a few weeks ago.

It's nice that someone put in the effort to add some color and dimension to an otherwise flat and bland building. These blue panels give the illusion of a raised detail.

The effect is quite nice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Standout

Walking down the street. A row of flats. What's this?

Wow, it looks like a pair of flats, but really fancy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Trying to Blend

While this is obviously new construction, I like how they tried to make it blend in to the neighborhood a bit with roof tiles and ornaments

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dream Homes

I took a long walk today, covering blocks and blocks of one Avenue. As I walked, noting the similarities, differences and oddities of the homes on this warm January day, I felt comforted. A little bit by the warmth, and a little bit by the familiarity.

How many hours I have gazed at these homes in my lifetime. Staring out the front window of the home I grew up in, walking to the corner store, waiting for the streetcar, going to the beach. Each house offers a little opportunity to imagine. As a child they all seemed like storybook homes, I would make up fairy tales about they people living in them. The faux half-timbering might be hiding Heidi, another with turrets could house Rapunzel. Little windows, tiny balconies, shutters with flower cut-outs, some Spanish influenced, others Mediterranean. Maybe that's what made them attractive when they were first built, the opportunity to own a little dream.

Today it's a just a dream that I could actually afford a home out here.

Friday, January 18, 2008


These dragons caught my eye. I believe they are wivern, two legged dragons.

It was hard to get a good photo of them. Here they are in place:

It's kind of hard to see the details so I altered this photo to make them stand out:

This commercial building was erected in 1926.

Edited on February 4, 2008:
You can spot the left side of the building on page 43 of "San Francisco's Sunset" in a photo of Kieser's Colonial Creamery dated 1946.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1970's Tile

Another thing I don't like about 1970's architecture is the tiles. Big brown tiles.

Tiles on the wall:

Tiles on the floor:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Brick and Tile

This is an interesting mix of materials. Haven't seen anything else like it in the Sunset.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I'm attempting to catalog all the shields; rosettes; swags; garlands; etcetera that I can find. It seemed like there were many different styles, but I thought I would find that actually it was limited. Each builder in the 1920's and 30's would have had a few stock styles, I assumed. It doesn't seem true, there is a lot of variety. This is my favorite so far:

This building had several different ornaments:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Awesome Details

It's amazing what you can see if you just look up. This apartment building, constructed in 1928, is just full ornaments.

The entry is amazing.

It's a treasure trove of all the ornaments I've been documenting.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rock On

I don't like rock facades. This just can't be original, can it? It is out of scale with the white ornaments. The staircase must have been stucco.

And yet I don't like rock (or brick) that has been painted all one color. But there is something so funny about this:

I don't know, if I had a house with fake rock on the front I would probably paint the house a neutral color pulled from the rocks. I don't know if I would have the guts to paint the rocks like this. But if I did it would be shades of pink.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Favorite Details

I have admired the details on this house hundreds of times. For years I thought it was the only one in the neighborhood with this motif. Note how the vertical pieces end in a point, and don't touch the windows.

Then I came across this one. One difference, the verticals touch the windows, instead of ending in a point.

The details:

The corners:

On the same block as the one I first admired is this one. The quarter circles and corner pieces are stripped off:

And a few blocks away is a home with just the corner piece. It is a different layout than the others, and doesn't appear to ever have had the vertical piece or quarter circles.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I'm not sure what I think about this house. But I can't stop looking at it. It is kind of fun:

But I wonder what it used to look like. Here it is with its neighbors:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Flutes and Corner Blocks

It's amazing how many different details there are on our Sunset homes that "all look alike". This corner block and fluted casing is a detail I'm used to seeing inside Victorian homes.

It looks kind of strange on its own, but in context of the whole house it's okay.

My first thought was that it wasn't original. However the house next door has fluted casing, but no corner blocks.

And just across the street is a house with both. It is smaller, though, too small, I think.

A new detail I will be watching for in my travels.

Friday, January 4, 2008

All-time Favorite Addition

I used to live in a Parkside house with an addition, a nice addition that was set back from the street and mirrored the style of the original house. Since then I have become involved in the construction business, and watch an occasional airing of the Board of Appeals.

As a result I am very interested in third story additions throughout the neighborhood, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This is one of my all-time favorites:

It's a box on top of house. A shingled box. Not only is it not set back from the street, it is on the front of the building, there appears to be room in the back for it.

It really stands out among its neighbors:

Just two doors down there is a much more more subtle addition:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The 1970's

I do not like 1970's architecture. For starters I don't like the whole '70's brown, orange, yellow, green color scheme. I can't stand orange glass, fake stone, black aluminum window frames, "decorative" rocks mixed into concrete, brown tile. I actually like bricks and shingles. But the mixture of shingles, rocks, yellow glass, bricks and more is just too much.

Here is an example. I don't know if shingles would have made it better or worse:

I think I subconsciously picture the interiors devoid of any trim, and filled with avocado and gold appliances. My dislike actually started in the '70's when I was a kid. There is a row of them on 9th Avenue. My sister and I actually have used them as a landmark. Here is one:

I had forgotten about another '70's attribute I despise: oozing mortar around the bricks.

I guess I just don't get the whole natural, "organic shape" '70's thing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year, New Blog

I grew up in the Sunset and have spent all but about three years of my life here or in the Parkside. People often say that the houses all look alike. I never understood that, as a kid I was always fascinated with the subtle differences in a row of similar houses. I still am, I guess. Today I often cringe at modifications that have been made.

I have started to take photos of things that interest me as I wonder the neighborhood.

Here's the first building I shot. It's a corner multi-unit. I like the trims.

Edited August 22, 2008 - there are more photos here.