Every city needs a significant structural and architectural landmark that gives a good view of its scenery. In San Francisco, the Coit Tower stands tall and proud at 210 feet (64 m) in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood overlooking the San Francisco waterfront.
The Coit Tower was made possible upon the bequest of the rather eccentric Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left funds to be used to beautify the city she has always loved. In her will, she requested for one third of her fortune, amounting to $118,000, “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.”
Lillie Hitchcock Coit was a wealthy socialite who loved to chase fires in the early days of the city’s history. She is remembered for her special relationship with the San Francisco firemen whom she always supported. Through her youth and adulthood, Lillie was recognized as an honorary firefighter. To this day, she is considered to be the matron saint of San Francisco firefighters.
Some say the tower resembles a fire hose nozzle due to Coit’s affinity with the San Francisco firefighters but it this has always been denied by its designer, Arthur Brown, Jr. The original design envisioned a restaurant in the tower, which was changed to an exhibition area in the final version. Visitors are awarded with sweeping views of waterfront vistas from the parking lot and observation deck, and the beautiful Pioneer Park which surrounds the tower.
The murals that decorate the lobby are also a must-see. They were painted by 25 artists as part of a Public Works of Art Project. The muralists, who were mainly faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), depicted sympathetic portrayals of the daily life of working class Californians during the depression. They were strongly expressing racial equality and leftist and Marxist political ideas.
Want to drop by Coit Tower? Here are some important details to help you out.
- Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94133
- Hours: Check tower hours here.
- Reservations: Not required
- Cost: Lobby murals and outside vista points are free, but admission is charged to go up in the elevator.
- How Long: Allow a half hour to walk around and enjoy the scenery, and one to two hours if you go up in the elevator or take the City Guides tour
- Guided Tours: Docent tours are available to visitors with a complete tour of the Tower including the murals. The tours are limited to an eight (8) person maximum. The length of the tour is about 30 – 40 minutes. Visitors will learn about the Tower’s inception, the Public Work of Art Projects’ influence, and history of the twenty-six artists. A $7 fee will be charged for tours of the murals. Please visit coittowertours.com for more information.
- Best Time to Visit: Any time, but the parking lot may be crowded during peak tourist season; views are best near sunset