Carville homes along 48th Avenue in San Francisco, circa 1905. (

$20 houses in San Francisco? Carville used to have them.

San Francisco once had a neighborhood cobbled together from old horsecars. In 1895, the Market Street Railway Company began selling its obsolete horse-drawn inventory, “$20 with seats, $10 without.” Within a few years, more than 100 horsecars and streetcars had been repurposed as housing for artists and low-income families along the dunes just south of Golden Gate Park. Dubbed Carville-by-the-Sea, the community included a café, a shoemaker’s shop, a church, and the headquarters of Falcons Women’s Bicycling Club.

In 1904, the New York Times declared the cottages of Carville “the queerest-looking houses that civilized human beings ever occupied.” In time, developers came knocking in search of real estate for San Francisco’s growing middle class. Carville vanished, and the Falcons ceremoniously torched their clubhouse on Independence Day in 1913. Yet one original structure has managed to survive to this day. It’s the last in the series of Carville photos below. 

The cars were sometimes stacked into multistory buildings. (
Members of St. Andrew’s by the Sea Church in Carville in 1908. (
Homes lined the dunes in Carville. (San Francisco Public Library)
The Carville area, photographed with a kite camera, in 1912. (
The last known Carville house at 1632 Great Hwy in 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)

Read more: FoundSF | Atlas Obscura

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