Coit Tower sits atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and can be seen from vantage points all over the city. It’s named for patron Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left funds when she died in 1929 “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The slender tower resulted, and it still stands, rising more than 200 feet from its base.
The View from the Top of Coit Tower
An elevator whisks visitors to the top of the tower to enjoy the 360-degree observation deck. From here you can see the densely built neighborhoods of San Francisco, the very crooked Lombard Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the former prison island of Alcatraz.
On our visit here a couple of years ago, Coit Tower was closed for refurbishment. Newly spiffed up now, it’s open and welcomes visitors every day. We climbed some 400 steps (the Filbert Steps) from the wharf area up the hill to reach the tower. This is a fun route through the backyards of those lucky enough to live here.
The Colorful Murals
The murals on the walls have a fascinating history. A year after Coit Tower was completed, in 1934, a group of artists was funded by the Public Works of Art Project, a forerunner of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Each of the scenes depicts life in California during the Depression. The artists painted an assigned subject in an assigned area. Scenes show different aspects of industry and commerce. The artists worked at the same time, side by side, day after day, until the murals were finished a few months later.
The lively colors of these fresco paintings are vibrant after their recent restoration. The fog of San Francisco takes a toll, but plans are now to care for this art more frequently to prevent disrepair. You’ll notice a lot of detail in the paintings, such as this little dog.
Artists also worked to fit in the windows in their assigned canvases. I especially appreciated this library scene.
Coit Tower, with its art inside and views of San Francisco from the top, is worth adding to your itinerary. After an enjoyable morning here, we walked through the adjacent neighborhood of North Beach and stopped for yummy Italian food for lunch. After climbing those stairs, we were certainly hungry!
If You Go
Note: Check the website for information on whether Coit Tower is currently open.
Open 10 to 5 every day
Cost: $7 for a ticket to the top of the tower; art tour is included
For more information, click here.
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