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Coit Tower
A Short Climb Up San Francisco's Telegraph Hill

Coit Memorial Tower - San Francisco CA

Coit Memorial Tower by day...

Coit Tower at night
and night...

Coit Tower Murals

Murals depicting California life.

Coit Memorial Tower is a must see San Francisco sight. The strangely shaped, art deco tower rises high above the surrounding area — which makes it a fantastic spot for scenic views of the rest of the City by the Bay, but the tower also holds hidden treasures for those who take the time to look inside.

Coit Tower History

The real story of the Coit Tower began one day in 1858, as 15 year old "Lillie" Wyche went to the aid of a fire engine from Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5. San Francisco's hilly streets were a challenge for the equipment and the kind hearted girl lent a hand on the ropes pulling the engine to a fire atop Telegraph Hill.

From that moment, the young society belle became a patron of the San Francisco firefighters. After she died, she left one third of her fortune to be used for the beautification of the city.

In 1933, the 210 foot Coit tower was built on top of Telegraph Hill, using the funds she provided. The concept of the Coit Memorial Tower was to honor both Lillie and the San Francisco firefighters who saved the city from burning after the 1906 earthquake. The cylindrical shaft of the tower was designed by architects Arthur Brown, Jr. and Henry Howard. There is some debate about whether the fact that the tower resembles the nozzle on a fire engine hose was an intended effect. That may just have been a story to placate the San Franciscans put off by the design...

Inside Coit Tower

Like its patroness and namesake, the Coit Tower's art deco design raised more than a few eyebrows in polite San Francisco society.

The interior decor of the building was as controversial as the external design. The commissioning of murals by the Public Works of Art Project in 1933 was a heated topic of debate. More than 25 muralists worked to depict these scenes of California life during the depression.

José Moya del Pino, Ralph Chessé, John Langley Howard and Bernard Zakheim were a few of the better known painters. Migrant workers in the fields, bankers and a bank robbery, harbor life and a department store scene are just some of the topics that inspired these artists.

The significance of these murals, in both artistic and political terms, have made them public treasures. Recent problems with restoring them for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murals in 1984 brought the art of the Coit Memorial Tower back into public debate.

After climbing past the murals, through a look at life in early 20th century California, you emerge onto an observation platform with spectacular, unobstructed, 360° views over San Francisco.

Pioneer Park, the land that surrounds the tower has its own history. The land was purchased in 1876 and donated to the city for use as a park. The businessmen who made this far sighted gift saw the sprawling city devouring the countryside and hoped to protect Telegraph Hill from development. The plan worked and today the top of the hill remains a scenic spot of green for natives and visitors to enjoy. Take a walk through the park and see if you can see — or at least hear — any of the wild parrots who have made Telegraph Hill their nesting ground.

Getting to Coit Tower

Pioneer Park and Coit Memorial Tower can be reached by taking the 39-Coit bus to the Columbus Street Parking lot. Enjoy the walk up the Greenwich steps or the more scenic Filbert Steps at Montgomery Street. The Tower is open from 10AM until 5PM. There is an admission charge.

About The Author... Travel Staff.

More about Coit Tower around the Web:

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco - Pictures & Panoramas

Coit Tower Virtual Tour - Coit Tower

also see related features -> San Francisco Fleet Week

Lombard Street - San Francisco's Crookedest Street

Smart Choices for San Francisco Hotels


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