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About 48,000 houses in the Victorian and Edwardian styles were built in San Francisco between 1849 and 1915 (with the change from Victorian to Edwardian occurring on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901), and many were painted in bright colors. As one newspaper critic noted in 1885, ", yellow, chocolate, orange, everything that is loud is in fashion...if the upper stories are not of red or blue... they are painted up into uncouth panels of yellow and brown...While many of the mansions of Nob Hill were destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, thousands of the mass-produced, more modest houses survived in the western and southern neighborhoods of the city.

Painted Ladies in the Lower Haight, San Francisco, California
During World War I and World War II, many of these houses were painted battleship gray with war-surplus Navy paint. Another sixteen thousand were demolished, and many others had the Victorian decor stripped off or covered with tarpaper, brick, stucco, or aluminum siding.

In 1963, San Francisco artist Butch Kardum began combining intense blues and greens on the exterior of his Italianate-style Victorian House. His house was criticized by some, but other neighbors began to copy the bright colors on their own houses. Kardum became a color designer, and he and other artists / colorists such as Tony Cataletich, Bob Buckner, and Jazon Wonders began to transform dozens of gray houses into Painted Ladies. By the 1970s, the colorist movement, as it was called, had changed entire streets and neighborhoods. This process continues to this day.

One of the best-known groups of "Painted Ladies" is the row of Victorian houses at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park, in San Francisco. It is sometimes known as "Postcard Row." The houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door in the 1892 mansion at 722 Steiner Street. This block appears very frequently in media and mass-market photographs of the city and its tourist attractions and have appeared in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and ads, including in the opening credits of the television series Full House.

The C. A. Belden House, a Queen Anne Victorian in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco on Gough Street Between Clay and Washington Streets. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2010, 722 Steiner St. was put up for sale, at the asking price of $3,999,999. It is located on the corner of Steiner and Grove. It was the first time in thirty five years that 722 Steiner St. had been for sale. It has been called the oldest, largest, and most detailed of the seven sisters. In December 1993, 710 Steiner St. sold for $575,000. 712 Steiner St. sold for $920,000 on Nov. 4, 1998 and again for 1,250,000 on Nov. 15,2001. 718 Steiner St. sold for $55,000 in 1974. 720 Steiner St. was sold on Aug.16, 1996 for $650,000 and again on Aug. 24, 2001 for 1,210,000. 722 Steiner St. sold for $65,000 in Feb. 1976.

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