When looking at a San Francisco map, getting from point A to point B can appear to be deceptively easy. For example—on paper—the distance between Haight Ashbury and the Castro seems minimal. Yet two imposing hills will have you huffing and puffing all the way home: Ashbury Heights and Buena Vista.
Some of the most picturesque architecture in San Francisco inhabits these neighborhoods, adorning the perimeter of Buena Vista Park like a necklace or tucked into the topography of the surrounding slopes. Notable properties include the “other” Spreckels mansion (a gorgeous Victorian mansion at 737 Buena Vista Avenue) and St. Joseph’s Hospital (now a condominium project and part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places).
Fantastic panoramas abound in these neighborhoods (no surprise since “buena vista” means “good view”). What’s especially nice is that the views vary from property to property and even from room to room. Take your pick of the downtown skyline, St. Ignatius Church, the Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay and Mt. Diablo, Parnassus Heights, Cole Valley, the southern city, the trees of Buena Vista Park, the Castro, and more.
Buena Vista Park itself was created in 1867 (as Hill Park). It’s the city’s third largest park, with a children’s playground, walking paths, and some views through the thick trees. Interestingly, if you look closely at the drain gutters around the park, you’ll see they are constructed with marble salvaged from the headstones of San Francisco’s old cemeteries. When graves were moved south to Colma, unclaimed headstones were broken up and used for projects throughout the city. (Do a Google search; it’s a fascinating bit of local history.) The marble was placed so the engravings couldn’t be seen. Yet there are some spots where names and dates are still visible.
Housing stock in Ashbury Heights and Buena Vista varies but Victorian architecture predominates. The location is serene and secluded yet—so long as you’re willing to walk uphill on one leg of your journey—it offers convenient access to three lively shopping/dining areas (Castro, Cole Valley, Haight Ashbury) plus several public transportation options.
Other surrounding neighborhoods include Duboce Triangle, lower Haight, Corona Heights and Clarendon Heights.