With the Supreme Court ruling DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional and San Francisco re-legalizing gay marriage, gay communities all over the country had every reason to celebrate. To join in the spirit of equality, we take you to San Francisco’s Castro District, one of the biggest and most prominent gay destinations in America, which lit up with crowds of people dancing in victory both in the streets and the neighborhood’s nightlife establishments. Here, you will find some quirky architectural gems and landmarks that have remained unknown to most of the country, but are appreciated daily by the locals.
1. Most Holy Redeemer Church
The Most Holy Redeemer Church is probably one of the first “inclusive” Catholic parishes in the country, welcoming all, regardless of color, gender, social status and sexual orientation. Though built in 1901, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the church began embracing equality when Father Tony Mcguire started preaching tolerance to its churchgoers. Located on 100 Diamond Street, the Most Holy Redeemer Church stands on the corner of 100 Diamond and 18th streets and features traditional crown moldings is considered the “gayest church west of the Vatican.” It features traditional crown moldings, mission-style arches, and stained glass windows.
2. Victorians on 18th Street
To experience the full characteristics of some of San Francisco’s quirky architecture, take a stroll down 18th Avenue where colorful Edwardian and Italian style structures reside. Bright pinks and purples, intricately crafted details, make these houses look straight out of a fantasyland.
3. Alfred E. Clarke Mansion
The Clarke Mansion wasn’t literally built on a gold mine, but the precious element definitely plays a prominent role in its existence. Alfred E. Clarke was a sailor who made his fortune by venturing into the gold industry and later realized his true calling in the police force. It was said that Clarke raked in a cool $200,000 at the time of his retirement, which he used to purchase seventeen acres upon which he constructed the four-story mansion then known as “Clarke’s Folly” in 1892. The gorgeous structure was designed in the eclectic style, Baroque-Queen Anne, which was popular at the time. Multiple towers, shingled exterior, and columned porches, adorn this Castro Classic. Though many would probably die to call such a grand residence home, Clarke’s wife refused to live in it because she felt that the mansion was too ostentatious.
4. Castro Theater
One of, if not the most, prominent landmark in this colorful neighborhood, is Castro Theatre. Built in 1922 by the Nasser Brothers and designed by famous architect, Timothy L. Pflueger, it remains as one of the only remaining 1920’s theaters still in operation today. Pflueger’s design was inspired by the architecture of a Mexican Cathedral, incorporating a dramatic roofline, grand windows, and exterior plaster wall decorations. Inside, he continued the Spanish flair in addition to Italian and East Asian touches. Classic motif murals created in a wet plaster process called scrafitto deck the walls of the theater’s interior. Last but not the least, Castro’s quintessential neon sign was added in the 1930’s and continues to contribute to the neighborhood’s uniqueness and vibrancy today.
Grab some brunch, sip on bottomless mimosas, and take a stroll down the streets of Castro this weekend. Make sure to walk through 18th Street and admire the fun, Victorian houses on the 4400 block. And, don’t forget to snap some pictures of the beautiful, historical Bay Area architecture of the Most Holy Redeemer Church and the Clarke Mansion. Then, catch a show in the landmarked Castro Theater but try not to get distracted by its elaborate murals. See just what decades And, if you’re driving up from San Jose, stop by All Natural Stone’s Burlingame tile and slab showroom and we’ll help you design your very own quintessential Northern California architectural masterpiece.
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