"Earthquakes, Fires and Hippies."

Back in my day, we washed our hands in a different room from the one we pooped in, and we liked it that way!

"People are buying Victorians and they are going super modern," said Scott Bowles, former manager of San Francisco Victoriana, a supplier of building materials for restoring Victorian homes, which closed in April. "They are ruining the city." [...]

Victorian-era architecture is not unique to San Francisco, of course. But many of the city's wooden homes with turrets and gingerbread details produced at the state's redwood mills were often designed by local architects, built by the same group of developers, or assembled from parts ordered from the Sears catalog. They often have distinct features and only -- in -- San Francisco traits, such as their bay windows, and are staggered up the city's hills. Some of the most over-the-top designs and extraneous details were ridiculed in their own time, it should be noted.

"It seems somehow cruel that many Victorians with intact interiors, that survived earthquakes, fires and hippies are having their stuffing ripped out so that the new owners can have a house that looks like a condo in Foster City," said Christopher VerPlanck, principal of VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting in San Francisco. [...]

Many owners want to create open floor plans, just like their tech offices, a design which is in sharp contrast to the narrow Victorian layouts of the late 1880s and early 1900s, which comprise many small rooms, each with their own fireplaces and heavy pocket doors, designed to keep in the heat.

"I have to ask why they seem to target Victorians when there are lots of more contemporary buildings that they could [apply] this treatment to," VerPlanck added. "When the remodel is done, often the only thing left is the facade, which they may or may not do a nice job of restoring. ... As more of these happen, San Francisco is turing into a Potemkin Village of itself. No history. No patina. Nothing is lived-in. Everything looks like a Dwell magazine spread."

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15 Responses:

  1. Andres says:

    I, too, hate change, Mr. Verplanck! We should hang out and talk about how much better life was when we could raise our kids in a proper lead paint and asbestos shoebox.

    • jwz says:

      That really is a fugly bathroom, though.

      • Ryan Russell says:

        A shower large enough for 15 simultaneous pressed hams.

      • That tub will be used, guaranteed, twice in the entire time the owner lives there. Once to try it out after the remodel was finished. The second a few days before the sale closes, because "man, I should have used that tub more often!"

        (That said I'm with Mr. Andres above. If there's one thing SF could use a fuckton less of, it's your neighbors getting to vote on how your decorate your place, and most Victorians are a wretched disaster from an energy standpoint.)

        • jwz says:

          It's important to see the distinction between the statements, "your taste is in your ass" and "your taste should be illegal."

    • Mariachi says:

      I think it’s the homogenization he has a problem with, not change. Nobody is building any new Victorians, but there are plenty of new glass boxes if that’s the look you want.

      • That id exactly the problem: loss of urban texture and richness. If they want a glass box, fine, but dont tear doen a historic home to do so.

  2. bobstreo says:

    As long as the outside looks "authentic" does it really matter?

    Most of my house pre-dates the Victorian era, Although I'm in a "preservation zone" there really aren't any rules about what I can or can't do, as long as my grass doesn't get too long. (nope, not HOA)

  3. asan110 says:

    "New tech money is destroying the streets of San Francisco"

    Where by 'streets', we mean 'private interior spaces'. Surely that distinction isn't important.

  4. Tim says:

    Wait until the trend for "Iceberg" houses -- multi-level basements -- hits your town. I spent six months being woken by drilling at 8am every weekday, and that was only a single level basement.

    • Pavel Lishin says:

      Is that plausible in San Francisco? Would the soil support that sort of thing?

      • jwz says:

        I suppose so? You don't currently see a lot of small or old buildings with basements in SOMA and the Financial District, which is all built on sand dunes, bay-dredged landfill and scuttled ships, but there are a lot of very large towers there and more every day, many of which have multiple levels of underground parking beneath them.

        • Tim says:

          Litigious neighbours might be more of a brake on this than the exotic geology (scuttled ships? Wow).