painted ladies toronto

These colourful Toronto houses are based on a famous San Francisco landmark

Stand in San Francisco's Alamo Square Park and you're bound to see countless tourists gawking at the famous Painted Ladies style Victorian houses on Steiner Street.

About 3,650 km to the northeast, Toronto has its own row of Painted Ladies that, while less of a tourist draw, form a colourful landmark in The Beaches neighbourhood.

A pocket of the neighbourhood locals call Pleasantville was constructed on the former Greenwood Racetrack lands in the late 1990s, and prominently features Victorian-inspired Painted Ladies-style homes along its curving frontage where Lake Shore Boulevard meets Woodbine Avenue.

painted ladies toronto

A group of the Painted Ladies style houses at the east end of Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto.

Situated on a stretch of road with four lanes of fast-moving traffic and narrow, sometimes overgrown sidewalks, Toronto's Painted Ladies aren't quite tourist attraction material.

However, their distinctive style references some fascinating history with clear links to the homes built in San Francisco's boom years following the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Edwardian and Victorian design persisted in San Francisco even after the catastrophic 1906 earthquake destroyed much of the city's housing stock, but it wasn't until the psychedelic hippie era of the 1960s and 70s that surviving homes took on the iconic pastel hues they're known for today.

San Franciso's Steiner Street Painted Ladies are undeniably more famous than Toronto's, with names like Postcard Row and the Seven Sisters. Contemporary audiences are probably most familiar with the houses' appearance in the intro sequence of the 90s sitcom Full House.

painted ladies toronto

The San Francisco Painted Ladies (of Full House fame) viewed from Alamo Square Park.

Toronto's have no playful nicknames or important moments in the late Bob Saget's career. Just addresses.

painted ladies toronto

The Toronto houses' muted colours highlight their Victorian-inspired features.

Through postcards and pop culture appearances, the houses at 710–720 Steiner Street are easily the best known in that city, but both historic examples and modern interpretations of Painted Ladies are practically everywhere in and around Frisco.

painted ladies toronto

The San Francisco Painted Ladies feature distinctive Victorian architecture with colourful exteriors.

In Toronto, not so much. Single-family and townhomes in the city rarely feature colour or much architectural variety, making this stretch quite unique among the broader context of built forms in the area.

Toronto's houses aren't anywhere near as stunning as their inspirations in California, but the homes offer modern luxuries like car elevators and open-concept layouts that give the 416-area code versions some advantages over their 415 predecessors.

painted ladies toronto

Toronto's Painted Ladies by night.

Toronto isn't the only city to build copycat Painted Ladies influenced by the original style out of San Francisco, or even repaint existing Victorian and Edwardian homes to achieve the same aesthetic.

painted ladies toronto

Toronto's Painted Ladies may lack the postcard appeal of their inspiration out west, but the connection is evident in the details.

Colourful rows of Victorian or Victorian Revival homes have since taken on the same moniker in places like Wellington, New Zealand, and several U.S. cities, including Cincinnati, St. Louis, Baltimore and New Orleans.

Photos by

Jack Landau

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