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Photo by Monica S. Lee

Why the French are flocking to the Castro

It all started back in 1971, when the famous French songwriter Maxime Le Forestier, inspired by the blue Victorian at 3841 18th Street, composed the song “San Francisco.” A hippie anthem to the city, it’s about “a blue house leaning against a hill; everyone’s there, the people who live there have thrown away the key—people of light, mad people,” and in France, it created a mythic sense of the locale. “We all grew up with the song,” says Jean-Pierre Ciudad, a native of France who now lives in the Castro. “It was all we knew of San Francisco. It made people dream; it made people want to come here.”

The only problem was, when Le Forestier recently found his old address book and located the blue house, it turned out to now be…green. The French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur took it hard—“Sacrilège: La Maison Bleue de Maxime Le Forestier Est Verte!” Enter a French paint company, the French consulate, and some cooperative owners, and—voilà!—the blue house is back.

Said the French consul, Romain Serman, to the press: “This blue house is a matter of patrimony. Today, justice is finally done to the French.”