Soot, fog and square footage. The story behind San Francisco’s iconic bay windows.
When you picture a residential street in San Francisco, it’s likely that your brain conjures up a row of ornate, colorfully painted Victorian homes all tucked together on a steep hill. But there’s a key feature of this image that’s easy to overlook, though it would make the scene very odd without it. A curving bay window wrapped into the facade is a signature piece of Bay Area architecture — even if it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Bay Area at all.
The quintessential bay window isn’t just found on Victorians — more on that later — but it’s become as synonymous with the Bay Area as fog or the Golden Gate bridge. The style of windows actually predates the Bay Area. It’s unclear when exactly bay windows were “invented,” but they rose in popularity during the English Renaissance, booming during the early 16th century to the early 17th century. This explains why the windows are still found so frequently in cities across the globe, with notable prevalence in the U.K. and later in New England.