San Francisco has a unique and varied architectural history, with many architectural styles and building forms represented. While this San Francisco Preservation Bulletin 18 discusses the foremost architectural periods, styles and building forms found in the City, it is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of architecture in San Francisco.

Period — Victorian (1860-1900). During this period, San Francisco’s architectural styles evolved from Mission-inspired and vernacular designs to styles of classicism and ornamentation. During the last decades of Britain’s Queen Victoria’s reign, a number of architectural styles were popularized in the United States. Loosely based on medieval prototypes, these styles are exemplified through multi-textured or multi-colored walls, asymmetrical facades and steeply pitched roofs. During this period, advances in technology resulted in the mass-production of housing materials such as doors, windows and siding, and the construction of complex shapes and elaborate detailing.

Period — Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Revivals (1890-1940). Commencing at the turn of the century and picking up steam in the 1920s, Period Revival architecture occurred amidst several great building booms. The longing for a foreign atmosphere, always a part of San Francisco culture, is exemplified during this period in which both traditional and exotic tastes found acceptance.

Period — Edwardian (1901-1910). Frequently, historic resources in San Francisco are referred to as “Edwardian,” in design and appearance. The term “Edwardian” was created to describe architecture produced in Great Britain and its colonies from 1901 to 1910, with the reign of Edward VII. Edwardian architecture encompasses a number of styles, with five main strands identified: Gothic Revival, Arts and Crafts, Neo-Georgian, Baroque Revival and the Beaux-Arts style. Interpreted in the United States and in San Francisco, the term “Edwardian” is often associated with multi-unit flats or apartment buildings constructed at the beginning of the 20th century.

Period — Modernistic (1925-1970). Beginning with the Art Deco style, the Modernistic period represented a radical departure in architectural expression. Art Deco was followed by Art Moderne, which, like its predecessor, was expressed through smooth surfaces, curved corners and the horizontality of structures. The period concludes with the International style, characterized by an absence of ornamentation and the use of rich materials, refined details and proportions.

Source:  SAN FRANCISCO PRESERVATION BULLETIN NO. 18

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