WHEN SAN FRANCISCO'S FAMED CABLE CAR LINES FINALLY reached the bare, sandy hills of the city's northwestern section, connecting the quarter to downtown, building began in earnest. The panoramic views of the ocean and the bay afforded by the area that came to be known as Pacific Heights were highly prized, and the well-to-do of the 1870s pounced, constructing lavish mansions to rival those of nearby Nob Hill. Their fabulous Victorian homes, constructed mostly of wood, withstood the great earthquake of 1906 fairly well, but the fire that followed threatened to destroy the neighborhood completely.

To create a fire break and stop the blaze's westward advance, workers dynamited rows of buildings, among them many beautiful mansions on Van Ness Avenue. The tactic worked, and consequently, most of the community's Italianate, Stick, and Queen Anne residences remain—a kind of architectural museum of San Francisco style.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.