Have you thought about how often people you’ve never met do something that brings
you joy? This is a season for giving gifts to family and friends. Some gifts are for
our community rather than for a specific person. When we hang lights on the eaves,
everyone who passes will enjoy them. When we go caroling, all within earshot will warm
with holiday spirit.
We found a place on our trip to San Francisco where a small group of folks decided
to brighten the lives of anyone who comes by. It’s known as the Filbert Steps, and it
is a well hidden secret in this tourist town. I had read about these 400 (!) steps up a
cliff, leading to the iconic Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Even armed with directions, we
couldn’t find the steps. Here’s our view as we wandered the streets below the tower. So
where are the steps?
I finally asked a local woman out for a walk if she could direct us to the Filbert Steps. .She told us we were close, just go a few blocks that way and turn right. She also said to look for the 18th century homes among the more modern as we climbed. These are vintage homes built by whalers. Their wives would hang out on the decks overlooking the bay, watching for their men’s safe return. The steps are in several sections. That’s good, because you can’t see how far you have to go.
This being a city where the unconventional is welcome, we found surprises along every stretch. A tiger hidden in the vegetation. A parking meter in a garden. A street sign and fire hydrant where there’s no street. A bench almost buried by autumn leaves.
Flowers and unique gates are there, too.
We met a resident who told us he’s going to make a new, larger sign so more people would find these stairs. Really? I figured those whose homes line the long stairway would resent our intrusion. No, they welcomed us and others who happen to find Filbert. They want us to delight in their gardens, sit and soak in the ambience. The “secret” gardens are a gift, meant to delight one and all.
We reached the top and joined the crowds around Coit Tower.
Then we eagerly started back down the stairs to make new discoveries. The whaler homes do still sit on the hill, though the whaling ships are only a ghost of history now.
The people who live here along the Filbert Steps are still looking out, though. They’re looking out for visitors like me who want to explore their lovely neighborhood. They are adding joy to the community, and all are welcome to take part.
How about you? Has someone you’ve never even met added delight to your life lately?
Amazing! In this day and age, it’s wild to know that private homes are “open” to the fabulous Filbert Steps! Thanks for the beautiful tour….I know I’ll never experience it!
we have a commuter bus that stops in front of our house every morning and every night. we hung a wreath festooned with lights on the porch so that they could be cheered by it. It’s not a very crowded bus. In fact there are only one or two people on it but the driver counts too. And, as we live at the edge of the causeway into town all the townfolks see our cheery Christmas wreath as they come home.
Hi Sharon, what a lovely post. I have been to San Francisco several times but I have not heard of Filbert Steps. Such a wonderful gesture from the residents to welcome people to the neighborhood. I love the charming things you found along the way – the hyrdrant, the parking meter, the flowers and garden patio. Thanks for sharing about this. I’ll certainly check it out next time I visit SFO.
What a trip!! I so want to go there to see these hidden gems!
We just moved away from the SF Bay Area and I’ m embarrassed to say I had never heard of the Filbert steps (although I certainly have photographed Coit Tower). What a wonderful place to seek out and photograph! Your photos are intriguing and lovely- nice job with the texture work! Thanks for introducing me to this area!
Well yes, you added delight to my day with your post…very fun! I have a local nursery where you can in the 8 acres find things like monkeys hanging from a tree or metal cows with a sign that says “got milk”…it’s always an adventure going there.
What a fascinating place. So glad you shared this and your thoughts with us today.
What a unique and interesting place!
It’s heartening to learn about such welcoming communities… I regret never having walked these Filbert steps during my visits to San Francisco. Thank you for the history and photo tour, beautiful!
Fabulous! Thank you for taking us on this tour. Living so close to San Francisco we have wanted to climb up the Filbert Steps, but haven’t done so until now. I hope we will do it in the new year, your post made me want to do it even more.
Fascinating! What a great tour – thank you. Love that parking meter!
Thanks for sharing! <3
Very interesting place. I love the tiger hidden in the bushes 🙂
What a lovely story and how wonderful those steps! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
First of all, looking at those steps just makes me feel tired. And yes, my daughter brought me joy today!
How fun! Looks like a wonderful place to mill about….after the climb of course!
Sharon, that is a lovely description of finding your way around and the photographs are very good.
I love the kindness of strangers too. I just read this story that made me smile: http://www.askyourdadblog.com/2013/12/my-favorite-christmas-story.html