The Sunset District's Architectural Renaissance


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When most people think of San Francisco architecture they imagine ornate wood Victorians standing several stories high, not the cottage-like cookie-cutter homes that blanket the city’s western neighborhoods. However, it’s looking like that could change.

In an effort to study the unique architecture of the western neighborhoods, the City of San Francisco’s Planning Department has embarked on a comprehensive survey to identify historic buildings constructed in the Sunset district from 1924 to 1950. The goal is to look at why so many of these un-San Franciscan homes cropped up at that time.

“Several groupings of houses have a picturesque or old-world charm, they are single family houses designed in a wide range of period architectural styles, such as storybook, Mediterranean, and French provincial,” says Mary Brown, who is a preservation planner for the San Francisco Planning Department. “They are like miniature chateaus or castles and give a whimsical appearance.”

Around 100 years ago, the Sunset was an unpopulated territory covered in wind-swept sand dunes. But, in the 1930’s, something happened—the Great Depression. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal era programs, thousands of homes were built in the Sunset to both spur construction and increase home ownership through mortgage financing, according to Brown. These programs brought in droves of working class families who purchased their homes for $3,000 to $5000.

Click here to learn more about the architectural history of the Sunset!

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