Noe Valley Voice September 2007

Victorian Alliance Holds Its House Tour in Noe Valley

By Erin O'Briant

The Victorian Alliance of San Francisco, a nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of our city's architectural heritage, has for the first time selected Noe Valley as the site for its annual Victorian House Tour. The 2007 tour will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, from 1 to 5 p.m., and will feature 10 of the neighborhood's Victorian gems, all built between the 1870s and 1910.

"This year, we're featuring small- and medium-sized homes," says tour co-chair Michael Hammond. The exception is a large Stick Victorian at Noe and Elizabeth streets that has been painstakingly restored by its owners, he says. In addition to the eight residences, participants will get to tour two local churches, Bethany United Methodist Church on Sanchez Street and St. Philip's Church on Diamond. At each location on the tour, docents or homeowners will be on hand to answer questions and show off the interior rooms. Participants also will receive a program guide, which will include historical information and line drawings of each building.

Hammond says tour goers can walk the route--which is bounded by Vicksburg, 22nd, Clipper, and Diamond streets--or if needed, catch a ride on a shuttle van furnished by the Alliance.

The self-guided tour begins on Elizabeth Street with two side-by-side homes, built in 1893. Tour co-chair JoAnn Vandenberg says visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the interiors' contrasting styles--one has a traditional Victorian look and the other is decorated in French motifs.

She also likes the house on Jersey Street. "It's the smallest one on the tour, but the owners are so creative. They have been able to take a very small space and maximize it.... But [the houses] are all great and different, and that's why I think this tour will be interesting."

Although the focus is on the Victorian facades and interiors, participants will get to see the outdoor spaces, too. "Most houses have either a deck or a back yard with plants," explains Vandenberg. "One has a deck with a gazebo, and another has a back yard with a little greenhouse.... The one on 25th Street has a wrought-iron fence that is the original one that has survived the elements all these years. It even has a ghost in it." (Tour participants can only hope the specter will make its appearance on Oct. 21.)

Hammond says participants can see a full range of Victorian styles in Noe Valley -- from Italianate to Colonial Revival to Queen Anne. "San Francisco is a time capsule of the Gold Rush era," he notes, "because there was such a population explosion that there was mass home-building, and the Victorian style was what people were building then." Also, because the neighborhood escaped the Great Fire of 1906, Noe Valley has many well-preserved homes from the 1870s and '80s.

According to Hammond, the Alliance picked the houses for the tour in the old-fashioned way, by knocking on the doors. The co-chairs also took the advice of Alliance members who live in Noe Valley. "They were excited about having us do the tour in their neighborhood, so they would suggest houses and we'd go and ask the homeowners if they'd like to be part of the tour," Hammond explains.

Both Hammond and Vandenberg say Noe Valley homeowners were more than happy to participate. "This year, we even had to turn down a couple of homes," says Hammond.

"The homeowners were so generous and so nice," agrees Vandenberg.

Proceeds from the event, which the Alliance has held most years since 1973, go to support the group's preservation activities. The organization helps fund restoration projects in various public buildings and at other nonprofits around the city.

Tickets for the Victorian House Tour are $20 if purchased before Monday, Oct. 1, or $25 on the day of the tour. Send a check with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Victorian Alliance, 4272 25th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114.

On tour day, there will be a ticket booth set up on Elizabeth Street between Diamond and Castro streets. The Alliance will also sell advance tickets at the Noe Valley Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 13.

For more information, call 415-824-2666. To download an order form, visit