San Francisco’s historic hills are home to some of the city’s most exclusive addresses, where stately mansions and luxury properties share the winding streets with quaint antique shops and purveyors of old-world charm. This juxtaposition of new money and antiquity creates a one-of-a-kind landscape that beckons the curious to explore its treasures.
A Neighborhood Steeped in History
The famous hills of San Francisco have long attracted the wealthy and powerful with their spectacular views of the city and bay. Initially dotted with the large estates of railroad tycoons and mining magnates in the late 1800s, neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and Russian Hill later drew bankers, entrepreneurs, and socialites. Today, these elite enclaves continue to offer sought-after real estate for luxury living.
Against this backdrop of modern wealth, the hillside neighborhoods still retain traces of their past in antique shops, boutiques, and cafes. Steep slopes lend a cozy, old-world feel, while allowing peeks of the stunning vistas. Meandering walks reveal elegant Victorians and Edwardians, now converted to galleries and restaurants. The hills seem caught in time, providing entry to both San Francisco’s bygone eras and its current affluence.
Antique Shops Offer Treasures from the Past
Scattered among the neighborhoods are antique stores and boutiques dealing in rare artifacts, jewelry, artwork, and furniture. For discerning shoppers, these stores provide access to unique items that evoke nostalgia and impart the legacy of fine craftsmanship.
Popular destinations include:
- Maxwell’s House of Antiques on Union Street, dealing in European furnishings from the 1600s to 1800s. Its vaunted collection includes Louis XV chaise lounges and Art Deco cabinets.
- Ann Getty Gallery on California Street, which features exquisite French antiques from the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors can view antique clocks, chandeliers, and furnishings rarely seen outside of Europe.
- Therien & Co. on Jackson Street, offering museum-quality primitive American antiques. Their selection includes 18th century chippendale desks and 19th century apothecary cabinets in immaculate condition.
For aficionados of rare collectibles, a tour of the high-end antique dealers in the hills provides an unparalleled selection. Knowledgeable proprietors also impart rich histories on coveted pieces to enhance their value and allure.
Cafes and Boutiques Offer Old-World Charm
The winding side streets branching off the main thoroughfares invite leisurely strolls. Here, tiny cafes, cheese shops, patisseries, and specialty grocery stores exude cozy, provincial vibes.
Well-known gems include:
- Just For You Cafe on Church Street, a 40-year neighborhood fixture, offering flaky croissants, macarons, and light sandwiches. The outdoor seating provides views of the historic streetscape.
- XOX Truffles on Filbert Street, crafting artisanal chocolates on-site in small batches. Their inventive flavors include single-origin dark chocolates infused with locally sourced herbs and spices.
- La Boulange Bakery, a local chain with an outpost on Pine Street, creating masterful French pastries and breads. Their airy creations and rustic baguettes transport one instantly to a Parisian patisserie.
The tiny scale and old-fashioned warmth provide a refreshing change from San Francisco’s modern dining scene. One can browse at a leisurely pace, chat with shopkeepers, and soak in the timeless charm.
Mansions and Properties Merge Old and New
The elite addresses scattered across the hillside streets feature multi-million dollar homes belonging to the city’s ultra-wealthy set. While many are contemporary buildings designed by celebrity architects, a significant number also comprise historic mansions dating back to the late 1800s.
Prime examples are:
- The Flood Mansion on California Street, built in 1886 at the height of Victorian-era opulence. This seven-bedroom property has been meticulously maintained and restored over the decades.
- The Grosvenor House on Gough Street, a Beaux Arts mansion constructed in 1876, once home to sugar magnate Daniel Crittenden. The interiors still boast the original wood carvings, chandeliers and sweeping staircases.
- The Pacific-Union Club on Sacramento Street, a gorgeously renovated Victorian mansion that now serves as an exclusive private club. The antique furnishings, rare books and artwork within provide glimpses of old San Francisco.
The careful preservation allows these pedigreed properties to retain their period grandeur, while modern updates ensure every contemporary comfort. For deep-pocketed buyers, they offer the unique chance to own a piece of history within the bustling metropolis.
The adjoining forces of new and old in San Francisco’s hillside enclaves – the antique dealers neighboring the multi-million dollar homes – create an environment like no other. Strolls through the winding streets offer glimpses of both eras, rewarding visitors with fabled sights and discoveries. For anyone fascinated by architecture, history or luxury living, an amble through these neighborhoods is a must.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes the San Francisco hills unique?
The iconic hills of San Francisco juxtapose modern wealth with historic charm in a way unmatched by other neighborhoods. Luxury mansions and properties stand alongside quaint cafes and coveted antique shops, allowing glimpses of both contemporary affluence and San Francisco’s bygone eras.
Where are some top spots to browse for antiques?
Some noteworthy antique shops include Maxwell’s House of Antiques for its European furnishings, Ann Getty Gallery for rare French antiques, and Therien & Co. for immaculate early American pieces. These house museum-quality artifacts coveted by serious collectors.
What are some favorite cafes and boutiques?
Visitors flock to Just For You Cafe for its views and pastries, XOX Truffles for artisanal chocolates, and La Boulange Bakery for masterful French creations. Their cozy charm transports one instantly to a Parisian cafe. The tiny scale and old-fashioned warmth provide a refreshing change from modern eateries.
What historic mansions are located in the hills?
The Flood Mansion, Grosvenor House, and Pacific-Union Club mansion are prime examples of meticulously preserved Victorians and Beaux Arts mansions from the late 1800s. They allow a glimpse into old San Francisco from the height of the city’s wealth and influence. For buyers seeking pedigreed properties, they offer the rare chance to own a piece of history.
Why visit San Francisco’s hillside neighborhoods?
These neighborhoods reward visitors with an experience found nowhere else – the chance to immerse in a place that merges the old and new. Strolls reveal San Francisco’s bygone days and contemporary wealth, appealing to lovers of architecture, history, antiques, and luxury living. The hills’ juxtaposition of antiquity and affluence create an environment like no other in the city.