Here’s How the ‘Painted Ladies’ in San Francisco Got Their Nickname

Updated: Mar. 28, 2022

They weren't always painted!

The Painted Ladies of San Francisco,

If you’ve ever seen a postcard from San Francisco, or the TV show Full House, you recognize the bright “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. The homes are scenic and a huge attraction for tourists and photographers alike. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state, but they didn’t always go by “Painted Ladies.”

The authors of Painted Ladies: San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians, Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen, are to thank for the nickname. The architectural phrase represents repainted Victorian and Edwardian houses featuring three or more colors. The homes lining some San Francisco streets featured in their book aren’t the only ones, either. Other towns in America also have their own ladies, too, including Cape May, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland, St. Louis, Missouri, and Cincinnati, Ohio. What’s almost as interesting is how these states and the rest got their names.

The row houses in San Francisco were popular in the 1860s, after the gold rush. Builders showed off their new wealth with elaborate Queen Anne style architectural home designs. Although the 1960 San Francisco earthquake destroyed some of the homes, the surviving ones have the colorist movement to thank for their bright hues. Many of the houses were initially painted gray during World War II, but artist Butch Kardum and others repainted the homes in bold colors in the 1960s. Now that you know about this tourist attraction, learn how every state in America got their nickname, too.