Our great thanks to Judith Lynch and The Victorian Alliance of San Francisco for their support in scanning and posting these images to OpenSFHistory.
Writer, researcher, and educator Judith Lynch took thousands of color slides of San Francisco architecture in the 1970s, which we have only just begun to add to the OpenSFHistory collection.
The great revelation for me in organizing and identifying locations in the slides was not that Victorian architecture was underappreciated at one time. I expected to see the dilapidated flats and paint-peeled apartment buildings from my youth, and there are indeed many examples in the Lynch slides.
What surprised me was the degree of transformation possible for buildings that appear beyond restoration. Sometimes all that’s needed is a bold paint job by colorist Butch Kardum, although 1960s and 70s color schemes may have to be a reacquired taste to appreciate. With other structures, the work of the crew from the firm of San Francisco Victoriana is on display as unsympathetic midcentury modernizations in the form of asbestos shingles and slathered-on stucco are removed for facades with newly-milled brackets, columns, window frames, and pediments. Judith followed in the workers’ footsteps, capturing the progress back to Victorian styles and showing me four decades later what dedication (and money) can do with even the most ramshackle building.
There are many gems to shine a light upon in these slides, but here are five striking “before/now” comparisons.
1818 California Street
San Francisco Landmark #55, known as the Lilienthal-Orville Pratt House, is one of the most recognized showplace houses in the city. Situated on a rise near the busy intersection of California and Franklin Streets, the angled-bay Italianate is prominent on a large lot and appears as pristine as the day it was built in 1876.
But these images of house, in the process of being spruced up for sale, show how shabby many of the city’s Victorians had become by the early 1970s.
4078 23rd Street
4078 23rd Street before (wnp25.10813) and after (wnp25.10876) restoration in the 1970s. (Judith Lynch photographs, courtesy of a private collector.)
The stucco job that had been done on 4078 23rd Street wasn’t the worst—at least it had a “clean” look—but the residents of the home just off Castro Street wanted the return of Victorian style with a modern touch hidden in the backyard in the form of a modular atrium.
4160-4168 17th Street
When I first saw the “before” slide of these Stick Victorian flats I couldn’t help but exclaim “Those aren’t around anymore,” only to eat my words when we figured out their location on the well-traveled 17th Street between Cole Valley and the Castro. This was an amazing restoration job that can still be appreciated today.
Pennsylvania near 25th
On the east side of Potrero Hill, with PG&E’s enormous gas holder looming over it, the flat front Italianate received a much-needed paint job.
Pennsylvania near 25th Street, with 1002 Pennsylvania before (wnp25.1634) and after (wnp25.10870) painting in the 1970s. (Judith Lynch photographs, courtesy of a private collector.)
The massive gas holder is gone, replaced by condominiums as part of the upscale building boom that has been echoing along the eastern waterfront for the last decade. What is still standing is 1002 Pennsylvania Avenue.
3514 21st Street
The most dramatic transformation we have seen so far in these slides. Luckily, a side elevation of the building had escaped the stucco modernization that the façade had endured. A template for the complete recreation was just around the corner.
Again, our great thanks to Judith Lynch and The Victorian Alliance of San Francisco for their support in scanning and posting these images to OpenSFHistory.