How has history influenced roofing and architecture in San Francisco?

Residents of San Francisco consider roofing and general architectural designs to be a time capsule. Building designs, roofing, in particular, captures the aspirations of the period in which people made the designs. Traditional roofing designs tell a visual story about their experience as residents of San Francisco.

If one knows what to look for in the architectural design, they should consider seeing San Francisco’s story as it developed over time. The city’s roofing makes the homes marvelous in appearance.

One can see the city grew from a clubby frontier suburb settlement to a cosmopolitan city center from the antique roofing styles. Some of the most original features include

  • Architecture didn’t follow a defined pattern.
  • Each home had its form of roofing.
  • There were no building codes for estates.

Modern San Francisco is different from the roofing styles and building designs that decorated the city in the 1650s.

After a keen analysis, an observer can conclude that every era has its architectural looks and designs. The rapid changes of the century show San Francisco’s struggle with the building advancements and the losses that resulted from uncontrolled industrialization.


Advancements in the Roofing Industry

During the last two centuries, changes happened pretty fast. For modern architecture, it defines and reflects two improvements. They include:

  • Technological housing developments
  • Social upheavals

These two developments collaborated to transform the city’s physical and cultural landscape. From the upgrading, there came the following roofing styles, which evolved in phases:

  • Technological housing developments
  • Italianate style
  • Victorian sticks
  • Queen Anne Roofing Styles
  • Edwardian Style
  • Spanish Colonial Style
  • Craftsman Style
  • Art Deco Style
  • Pre-Modern styles
  • Moderne Roofing style
  • Streamline Moderne Style
  • International Architectural Style
  • Mid-Century styles


Italianate Style

When the gold rush speculators arrived in the city in 1849, the day’s look was Italianate. It was a movement that made attempts to re-create the general appearances of the villas and farmhouses of the Italian countryside. The first decorations of these villas and farmhouses were at two points. They include:

  • Rooflines
  • Hoods

This approach means the initial transformations didn’t target the entire houses; neither did they aim at changing the outlooks of all house types.

When it came to the hoods, architects weren’t interested in every part at first as well. They first tried to decorate bonnets in the following manner:

  • First tried to see how the awnings at the windows would appear.
  • Decorated mantles at the door.

The earliest Italianates of SF were nothing but flat-fronted boxes. They looked like the buildings one would see in some ancient Western towns.

As San Francisco and its framing techniques increased in sophistication, multistory octagonal bays increased in importance to the old city residents. They became more essential elements of the roofing style.

Italianates seemed to be ubiquitous at first but later burned down at the end of 1906.

There’re various examples of Italianates homes that have remained memorable up to date. They include the following:

  • West of Divisadero
  • South of 20th Street in Mission


Victorian Sticks

There was a time when ancient old-growth forests surrounded San Francisco. In the process of powering up the industrial revolution, they became ready for an architectural style that used its natural resource. The city had abundant resources for the purpose, and there was no need to continue with the Italianate style.

The city center, as an emphasis on this readiness, embraced the following building practices:

  • West of Divisadero
  • City architects reduced the redwood forests to two-by-fours.
  • Homes started featuring more complicated rooflines and facades.
  • New structure framing practices began using standardized lumber.

After establishing more advanced building designs, they covered every imaginable building surface in bits of machined trim. This practice was essential as it would help create geometric roofing patterns.

They gave the new name to the latter, and a more appealing roofing style was “Stick.” If one was keen, they could have realized that the name was strange and embodied irony since people built homes and decorated them with sticks. This style ranged from different points, from the old redwood forests to the spruce forest that created homes with striking patterns.

It’s common to see stick homes in neighborhoods where the 1906 fire didn’t reach. The following are some of these neighborhoods:

  • Western Addition
  • Noe valley
  • Eureka valley
  • Potrero and the Mission Hill


Queen Anne Roofing Styles

Within a short period, people saw San Francisco rising from being a faraway outpost to a global-class industrial city.

With the new status and reputation, the city’s residents wanted to boast of their new monies and opulent homes with impressive roofing designs.

The new building designs had some benefits for the residents. The benefits include:

  • A free resource for all
  • Appeared precious
  • Everyone considered the models pretty.

Queen Anne homes are still fanciful and impressive in terms of proving the design efficiency among modern city residents. The apartments feature uncountable combinations of the following features:

  • Bay windows
  • Turrets
  • Decorated roof lines

The defining feature of Queen Anne homes is that they tend to be flashy and feminine. Just like the painted Ladies on Alamo Square, the traditional houses are dripping in flowers swags and shining with gold.

There’re several examples of Queen Anne homes. One can find them in various places such as:

  • Alamo Square
  • Cow Hollow
  • Pacific Heights
  • Ashbury Heights


Edwardian Style

By the end of the century, the more significant part of the Western world desired to see itself as a direct continuation of ancient Rome. Most people thought San Francisco wanted to achieve the same status. The city residents considered themselves to be something better and new: Modern San Francisco.

Under the new condition, residents of San Francisco had to focus their efforts on working out the long time tension of having been the ambassadors of western culture. San Franciscans couldn’t stand to continue acting as the culture bearer in the modern world.

If one was lucky to get into an Edwardian home, they could have enjoyed the moments of watching the wives of the industrialists entertaining in togas.

It was far much impossible to compare it with Queen Anne homes as it was less opulent. Edward’s home was more masculinely trimmed as it had borrowed the roofing details from the old temple architecture. The house also had fewer interior walls compared to that of Queen Anne. One could credit the house for the larger great rooms it was featured.

Modern residents who wish to borrow roofing ideas from Edwardian homes can visit them in several areas. The apartments are in the regions that ancient architects rebuilt after the mega 1906 fire. Such areas include:

  • SOMA
  • Mission downtowns and neighborhoods


Spanish Colonial Style

The industrial revolution made San Francisco face the harsh realities of modern city life. San Franciscans, from this harshness, resolved by romanticizing the simple rural lives of the missionaries, the city’s founders.

They embraced the missionary architectural style as an attempt to turn back time. The form revived designs of the Spanish missions. The Spanish architectural design had little decoration of stucco and adobe facades.

The mission building style is currently the most influential architectural design in California. In the late teens, the ancient architects reinterpreted the critical elements of the design and renamed it “Spanish Colonial.” It was after renaming the style that people started to feel its influence; most city builders and residents embraced it as their favorite style.

Tract developers heavily used the Spanish colonial style to romanticize their western frontier.

The romanticizing of the western frontier later created a nostalgia that acted as a central marketing gimmick developers used to sell homes to Midwesterners. These are the people who yearned to own at least a piece of the modern, glamorous sunny city in California.

Modern architects borrow the Spanish colonial building design from mission homes in various areas in San Francisco. The following are some of the regions where mission homes are still evident:

  • The Sunset
  • Glen Park
  • Noe Valley
  • Outer Mission
  • The Richmond


Craftsman Style

At the beginning of the 19th century, machines and corporations were producing nearly everything. Residents of San Francisco feared the old crafts would get lost to the assembly lines. Artisans don’t make craftsman homes by machines; they make it using their hands. Artisans can’t also make these homes unless they possess the relevant skills.

The new movement producing building materials using machines and corporations revived the trades by inflating them to obtain an art status. Every building style was meant to be artistic. The craftsman-design home hasn’t got added décor. It instead champions the home creations into an art in its own rights.

Just like stick decoration design, the craftsman-made style features an irony. The irony in the technique is a movement that boosts the status of handmade homes by considering it better than mass-produced homes. It’s quite unfortunate even if so many people are embracing the building design in San Francisco; they’re only affordable to a few wealthy residents.

During this movement, architects built craftsman houses away from the city center. The modern architecture has heavily borrowed from campaigns to design even more modernized homes, which are affordable to all classes of people.

One can find craftsman homes in areas such as:

  • Glen Park
  • The Sunset
  • The Richmond
  • Noe Valley
  • Outer Mission


Art Deco Style

Craftsman building movement came with a grip of steel and great unchecked enthusiasm for the building industry. From the campaign, one can tell the buildings that started in the 1920s had begun to scrape the sky.

Expert Architects decorated Art Deco homes with geometric patterns to enhance houses’ verticality. The designs also offer the illusion of houses vanishing into the sky.

Art deco homes feature machines or modern-age materials. The following are some of these materials:

  • Steel
  • Glass
  • Chrome

Art deco buildings are all about technology and architectural optimism in the building industry. Art Deco style came as capitalism embodiment. People, therefore, used it mainly for commercial buildings.

While most people apply this style on commercial building projects, there’re still a few art deco houses in several areas such as:

  • The Sunset
  • Sea Cliff
  • The Marina
  • Pacific Heights


Pre-Modern styles

As more people came to San Francisco to run away from the Dust Bowl, roofing design developers came up with a better idea. They realized they could earn a lot of money by purchasing vast tracts of lands on the city outskirts. They then started building a multitude of nearly identical houses. This movement explains the origin of the building codes in the various estates in San Francisco.

The building developers repeated the standard floor plans over and over again, to reap maximum profits, like an assembly line. The 1930s era came as a dawn of the building subdivision trend that later transformed the entire landscape of American cities.

Building developers heavily relied on hype. The San Francisco Chronicle had invested a lot of time writing glowing articles about the new houses. They were also selling ad spaces to building design developers themselves. The new roofing models and ever-changing stylized facades also helped keep happiness from the enormous profits up.

Modern developers borrow this style from ubiquitous homes in various areas. They include:

  • The Marina
  • The Richmond
  • The Sunset
  • Excelsior
  • Hunters Point
  • Visitation Valley
  • Bernal Heights
  • Glen Park
  • Potrero Hill
  • Noe Valley


Moderne Roofing style

The Great Depression came with a lot of desperation, which left the typical resident of San Francisco dreaming of traveling to foreign places. There were movies like “The Wizard of Oz” that perfectly captured the common man’s longing to leave a drab life by running to more colorful locales. The developers of the 1930s worked to meet these necessities, making San Franciscans satisfied in their town. The architectural design they created was all about designing high-speed travel towards luxury.

Various elements significantly inspired modern homes in the city. They include:

  • Trains’ aerodynamic detailing
  • Horizontal decks
  • Rails for luxury ships


Streamline Moderne Style

The collaboration of these three elements much inspired the streamline moderne home designs. Building style developers reinforced the low, long silhouettes at every chance with horizontal details, with rounded corners evoking the porthole and bow of chic yachts.

In the modern architectural industry, developers borrow building designs from Streamline Moderne houses in areas ancient builders broaden last. The following are some of the places where one can find these houses:

  • The Sunset
  • Noe Valley
  • Outer Mission
  • Excelsior


International Architectural Style

The great depression, although it brought in capitalism, made the system look ugly. Many people run away from it, and socialism started taking its place. To many residents of San Francisco, socialism was pretty sweet and accommodative. The world was becoming ready for an aesthetic movement that was embodying new corporative ideas.

From the socialism movement, developers came up with the international architectural style. This design wasn’t to act as a new style for California, but it was a style for the entire world.

The Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island (GGIETI) of 1939 exhibited this minimal building design, which got inspiration from advancement in technology rather than history. The idea of an international architectural style was to abandon individual cultural definitions and, instead, exist as one world with a universal building culture identity.

This latest style drops all home decorations that aren’t useful. While most people were used to the ancient boxed-shape styled homes, nobody had ever seen such a simple square-shaped building style before. Many people today say they’ve got a special feeling for ordinary dull boxes, while at the same time, the clean rooflines were revolutionary for all designs.

The modern building industry still borrows from international homes of 1939. One can find these homes in various places such as:

  • Golden Gate Heights
  • Laurel Village
  • Upper Market
  • Twin Peaks
  • Sea Cliff
  • Noe Valley


Mid-Century styles

In the 1950s, almost everyone believed all California residents would be living like the Jetsons. New roofing materials made classic homes out of the Jetsons’ world. With few walls featuring tons of glass, it was pretty tricky to identify the starting and endpoints where the indoor and outdoor meet.

One could drive their rocket-ship-designed DeSoto right to their house and get in through the carport. This new design was nothing but a play on the spaceport.

By the end of 1950, architects had exhausted all the land in San Francisco. There was no land remaining where one could build even a small house structure. That’s except for the most hostile places where people couldn’t live. Such sites included the windswept peaks.

The new building technology made new buildings weather-tight, and building areas were open to design developers. No one would, after all, need to go outside with such beautiful views.

One can find mid-century modern houses today in various places such as the following:

  • Golden Gate Heights
  • Twin Peaks
  • Diamond Heights

Minimalism appeared subversive in the beginning. To the baby boom children, however, it was different. To them, minimalism had the following features:

  • It was bland
  • Predictable
  • Monotonous

People saw modern houses as plain boxes. It was high time to reflect outside the box. San Francisco served as the epicenter of architecture radical changes. Various things seemed to mix things up. They include:

  • Civil rights
  • Sexual revolution
  • Women’s liberation

Drugs, free love, and rock ‘n’ roll permeated the culture of young people. All these things led to different architectural styles blending. Similar to the architectural electric Kool-Aid, postmodern style seems to appear weird, awkward, impossible, and surprising.

People developing homes with postmodern styles heavily rely on available stylish homes. One can find these homes in areas that remained undeveloped. Examples of such areas include:

  • The Sunset
  • Diamond Heights
  • Golden Gate Heights
  • Bernal Heights
  • Mission Bay
  • SOMA
  • The Mission
  • Potrero Hill


See Prominent Roofing Projects in San Francisco

Get images of roofing projects like Victorians, Mid-Century, Modern flat roofs, and Geodesic domes in San Francisco through Roofing Northern, CA’s guide.


Historical Roofing Projects in San Francisco

Roofing has evolved gradually through time, with developers leaving a mark of quality on old roofing. Modern roofers borrow a lot of knowledge from these projects, with some creating roofing codes for the residential and commercial areas.

The following are some of the historical roofing projects that Roofing Northern CA offers similar style with:

  • The Miller Creek Schoolhouse
  • Healdsburg Farmhouse
  • San Francisco Victorian
  • Mutual Relief Building
  • Andresen’s Tavern
  • McMurry Lagan Residence
  • Petaluma Victorian


The Miller Creek Schoolhouse

This roof style is the oldest single-room school in San Rafael, CA, Marin County. The building is an adaptation of the ancient Italianate architectural design famous in the earliest Victorians in San Francisco.


Healdsburg Farmhouse

It’s a saltbox design farmhouse that lies in the Alexander Valley near Healdsburg. The farmhouse was home to the famous artist Richard Diebenkorn. Its historic roof preservation includes the following elements:

  • Installation of GAF shingle roof
  • Re-installation of the building rooftop tracery


San Francisco Victorian

Henry Geilfuss was the most prolific architect in San Francisco during his time. In the late 19th century, he created over 450 Victorians, which now act as historical landmarks.

The legendary architect built his own home in an Italianate style. The house still retains Henry’s signature element of the delicate embellishments he carved into porch posts and redwood corner boards.


Mutual Relief Building

This tourist attraction is the famous Petaluma’s historic iron front row. The building features a stunning Italianate style; most people refer to it as “Mutual Relief Building.”

The legend architect John Curtis designed this historic building and featured it with a cast-iron façade. Roofing Northern CA boasts of harboring experience with creating the same roofing style.


Andresen’s Tavern

The historic building lies adjacent to the Mutual Relief Building. One will find it in the iron-front row of ancient buildings. The developers of the castle built it in 1885 using the cast-iron façade Italianate style.


McMurry Lagan Residence

This building still acts as a historic Victoria landmark. Architects Farrel McMurry and Thomas J. Wales installed the building’s insulated foam roof in 1889.


Petaluma Victorian

This spot is a beautiful heritage home in Sonoma County. The heritage home perfectly captures the historic architectural arms of Queen Anne’s building design. The home features an asymmetrical façade embodying a wrap around the porch.


From The Old Architecture to Modern Roofing Designs

The roofing industry has come a long way in adjacency to the general architecture. While there has been an effort to make homes look more modernized and luxurious, it’s difficult to achieve excellent results without good roofing. That’s why Roofing Northern CA works closely with expert developers to ensure they use the best roofing style for their clients’ roofing projects.

Roofing is a home element that, when one chooses a quality roofer, will give any home impressive looks. Roofing professionals offer the following services to San Francisco residents:

  • Roof installation
  • Roof repair
  • Roof replacement
  • Metal roofing
  • Roof inspection
  • Asphalt shingle roofing

Roofing San Francisco also offer roofing services in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Since they started their operations, their business has been 80% customer referrals. The reason why they haven’t achieved the 99% mark is high pricing; most clients prefer going for cheaper roofers. Roofing Northern CA is honest in its price estimates; they primarily base their business on customer referrals. Contact them today for a realistic price estimate.