The Alamo Square neighborhood is famous for its Victorian architecture. It is relatively untouched by time as one of the few San Francisco neighborhoods to survive the city’s 1906 earthquake and fire.
Alamo Square Park is the focal point of the neighborhood and consists of four city blocks at the top of a hill overlooking much of downtown San Francisco, with a number of large and architecturally distinctive mansions along the perimeter. “Alamo” means poplar or cottonwood tree in Spanish, and in the early 1800s, a lone cottonwood stood atop a hill that is now the center of the park. By the time of the American Civil War, the top of the hill was designated as parkland. Today, the park is bordered by Hayes Street to the south, Steiner Street to the east, Fulton Street to the north, and Scott Street to the west.
This neighborhood contains the second largest concentration of houses over 10,000 square feet (930 m2) in San Francisco, after the Pacific Heights neighborhood. Six spectacular Victorian homes (also known as the "Painted Ladies" or the “Postcard Row”) that conspicuously peek over the edge of Alamo Square Park are among the most famous sites of San Francisco.
By the 1950s, the park, and much of the neighborhood surrounding it, began to slip into decline. Many of the neighborhood’s mansions were divided up into apartments. In 1984, the Board of Supervisors declared this neighborhood Alamo Square Historic District and gentrification inevitably followed with many young people and upper-middle-class homeowners moving in, attracted by the weather, conveniently central location and easy access to transportation, adding to a diverse older population. Today’s “middle class” homes of the Victorian era easily sell for well over a million dollars, some for several times more.
Hayes Valley is a noteworthy area adjacent to the Alamo Square neighborhood. Italian immigrants first settled here in the wake of 1849 California Gold Rush, developing produce farms on the sandy soil of this neighborhood. This area was a part of the Western Addition which was developed in the 1850s to expand the city west of Van Ness Avenue. In 1856, Michael Hayes was on the committee responsible for naming streets of this development and likely influenced the naming of Hayes Street after his brother Thomas, a large landowner in the neighborhood who was then also serving as county clerk. Many grand Victorian residences (on primary streets named after influential locals such as Hayes and Gough) as well as smaller houses for craftspeople at work on the mansions (on the streets mainly carrying botanical names such as Lily, Ivy and Hickory) were built in this neighborhood. Many of these residences still exist today as this area was spared by the 1906 earthquake and fire.
The blossoming of the nearby Fillmore district (please refer to the Japantown – Fillmore – Lower Pacific Heights tab of this website for further details) during and immediately after World War II led to Hayes Valley becoming an African American neighborhood. Unfortunately to Hayes Valley, an elevated Central Freeway of U.S. Route 101 was built in the neighborhood during the 1950s, bringing the area into a rapid decline. The demolition of this freeway as a result of the damage caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake gave Hayes Valley a chance at revitalization. The sites of ramps of Highway 101 were transformed into Hayes Valley Farm, an education and research project with a focus on urban agriculture. Today, Hayes Valley is one of the trendier sections of San Francisco with an eclectic mix of boutiques, high-end restaurants, hip night spots and music venues. Its convenient central location also makes it a popular choice to live for many San Franciscans.
Alamo Square neighborhood has a Walk score of 94 and Transit score of 92, Hayes Valley boasts an impressive Walk score of 94 and Transit score of 100.
The below links provide further details on these neighborhoods and their attractions: