Nine Fun Facts about Coit Tower
Coit Tower, sitting pretty on Telegraph Hill, is more than just a pretty view of San Fran. This iconic landmark has a rich history and some fun facts that will make you want to visit ASAP. So pack your hiking shoes, and let’s dive in!
#1 Money talks: Coit Tower is named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy socialite who had a soft spot for local firefighters. When she passed, she left a third of her fortune (which is almost 2 million dollars today!) to the city with instructions that it was to be used to add beauty to the city she loved.
#2 Not a fire hose nozzle: Coit Tower is sometimes referred to as the “Coit Memorial Tower” in honor of the volunteer firemen who lost their lives during the 5 great fires in San Francisco. Although some say it looks like a fire hose nozzle, it was not designed to look like one.
#3 Who designed it? The same architectural firm that built San Francisco City Hall also designed Coit Tower, but the architect behind the design was Henry Howard, not Arthur J. Brown.
#4 Skinny is the new sexy: The tower’s vertical design was chosen to make a monumental statement within the small site and budget while complementing the proportions of the hill. And that fluted look? That’s to avoid looking top-heavy. The difference in diameter at the top of the tower compared to the bottom is just 18 inches.
#5 Depression Era murals: The interior murals were created as part of the Public Works of Art Project during the Depression era, employing out-of-work artists. They were considered incendiary at the time for their socialist overtones, but also for daring to depict people of color alongside white workers.
#6 Locked up and painted over: During the longshoreman’s strike of 1934, the city painted over some of the more offending elements for fear that the art would stir up too much sympathy for workers. They also locked the public out of the tower to keep the murals from public view for a while.
#7 Women muralists: There are 27 murals in total, created by 26 artists; four of which were women. The total cost of the mural project: $26,022 and was completed on budget.
#8 Don’t shoot! Shortly after the tower opened, the owner of a Union Street cafe went up to the roof to fire a rifle at it, complaining that it “invaded the sanctity of his view.”
#9 Parrot party: As you wander the trails that wind around the tower, you may hear the raucous chatter of the neighborhood’s most famous (and noisiest) residents, the flock of parrots featured in the 2005 film “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”.