By Simon Liu
When you drive through a neighborhood for the first time, which homes stick out? What is it about those homes that make them memorable? Maybe it's their overall design, or some attractive detail. What about how they're painted?
The Painted Ladies in San Francisco are one of the most photographed tourist attractions in San Francisco, and with good reason. With their elaborate detailing, vibrant color schemes, and fascinating roots in San Franciscan history, they’ve earned their place in American architecture.
It all started with gold. Starting in 1848, the Gold Rush drew some 300,000 people to sparsely settled towns around California. For San Francisco, gold represented a massive urban planning challenge as it struggled to manage its sudden economic and population boom, growing from 1,000 to 25,000 inhabitants within just two years.
By building more vertical homes closer together, residents could still live in distinctive homes while maintaining the smart, cohesive urban plan that made San Francisco into a great city. 'Queen Anne' architecture, the popular style of the time, was perfect for the expanding middle class who wanted a home that would fit into the neighborhood yet remain individual and unique.
"The Queen Anne fashion, also known as ‘free classic,’ was the first truly eclectic style of the 19th century," says Parkwood Homes architect Daniel Morales. "In San Francisco’s The Painted Ladies, the mixture of different elements resonated with the new and brash city looking to take its place as one of the most beautiful cities in the world."
Characterized by front gables and bay windows, these Victorian homes were adorned with elegant moldings, textured shingles and stylized brackets. Likewise, the homes were painted with bright, contrasting colors that highlighted their expressive craftsmanship. By the early 20th century, nearly fifty thousand of these homes would be built in San Francisco alone.
"Thanks to the newly established lumber mills and rail networks, wooden decorations were able to grace even the most humble of cottages," Daniel says. "Best of all, the style’s flexible vocabulary permitted individual interpretation, thereby conveying the owner’s character to the public."
Unlike the townhomes seen in historic neighborhoods like Georgetown and Beacon Hill, which have a charm all their own, the Painted Ladies of San Francisco were a celebration of individuality in an expanding urban setting. They were a reminder that higher density doesn't have to mean getting lost in the crowd.
If you visit San Francisco today, relatively few of the original painted ladies remain, scattered around the city's historic neighborhoods. Yet their continued popularity among architects and residents through the last century demonstrates their timeless appeal and contribution towards American architectural history. Even more, their charming aesthetic and bold colors have inspired architects around the country, in cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans, and now, Denver.
We're excited to announce the upcoming Parkwood Painted Ladies Collection in Stapleton, available for reservation very soon. Rediscovering the timeless charm of their Golden Gate sisters while drawing inspiration from the best of Denver's historic neighborhoods, Parkwood's Painted Ladies are an exciting addition to the city's character.
Past their striking exteriors, the wide open main floor, modern amenities and signature finishes that come standard with every Parkwood will impress guests from the curb to the kitchen. Compared to our single family homes, these low-maintenance homes offer the convenient lifestyle of our luxury townhomes while keeping the individuality and privacy of a home detached from neighbors. Take advantage of options like extending the kitchen island or adding a rooftop deck, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery. As with all our homes, Parkwood buyers will have the opportunity to customize these homes to fit their needs.
"Denver's pioneering Victorian heritage has been combined here with the idea of the originals to create the same distinctive charm of San Francisco’s character, but with a Denver feel," Daniel says. "Having a sense of place instills pride in your home but also in the larger neighborhood."
From the Mews in Central Park West and Nantucket Close in South End to Boston Street in Wicker Park, the Painted Ladies collection is only our latest contribution to Stapleton's sense of place and community. Keep an eye on our Facebook page in the coming weeks and join our interest list to be the first to know about the Parkwood Painted Ladies!