Coit Tower has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline since the end of 1933, a slender white concrete column from the top of Telegraph Hill. It is a welcome feature both for visitors as well as the residents. Its observation deck, accessible via the lift, provides 360 degree city- and bay-views (tickets can be purchased in the donation shop), including Golden Gate and the Bay Bridges.
The simple fluted tower is named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy firefighter and eccentric patron. Coit died in 1929, leaving a major legacy “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The funds were used to create both the tower and a memorial to Coit ‘s beloved volunteer firefighters in nearby Washington Square. Arthur Brown, Jr. architect of the City Hall of San Francisco, designed the structure. Coit Tower was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, in contrast to popular belief.
In 1934, a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to Works Progress Administration ( WPA), painted the murals inside the tower’s base, and depicted life in California during the Depression. When violence erupted in the longshore strike of 1934, some panels were heated by a dispute over the radical content. The tower had to be painted over several months before the frescoes were eventually opened to the public in the fall of 1934, some of the most controversial elements were painted.
Telegraph Hill takes its name from a semaphore telegraph erected at its summit in 1850, which alerts residents to the arrival of ships. In 1876, Pioneer Park was established at the old site of the telegraph station, which surrounds Coit Tower. You can hear the rough chat of the district’s most famous (and noisiest) residents, the parrot flock shown in the movie “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” of 2005, wanderning along the paths that wind around the tower and down the hill.
Coit Tower was completed on October 8, 1933, after five years of construction. An additional $7,000 in city funding was provided to complete the design of Arthur Brown, Jr., who was also the architect of the San Francisco City Hall. The tower is a slim white column of concrete, rising from the top of Telegraph Hill on a height of 210 feet (64 m). Visiting the tower, which provides a panoramic view of city and sea, including the Golden Gate and the Sea Bridges, tickets are available at the gift shopping museum. Other views include Lombard Street, Nob Hill, Twin Peaks, Pier 39 and the Financial District.