ART HISTORY Coit Tower paints a pretty picture of San
DIANA MIREL IS
A CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR
JPM®. IF YOU
OR YOU ARE AN
A TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO IS NOT COM-
PLETE WITHOUT A STOP AT COIT TOWER
IN THE TELEGRAPH HILL NEIGHBORHOOD.
Boasting 360-degree views of the entire city, the
San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and
the Bay Bridge, the tower has been a prominent
symbol of the city since it was built in 1933.
Developed as a monument to the city’s fire-
fighters, the fluted tower was built in honor of
San Francisco socialite Lillie Hitchcock Coit. In
her will, Coit bequeathed one-third of her estate
to the city to be used “for the purpose of adding
to the beauty of the city I have always loved.”
Coit had a long and special relationship with
the city’s firefighters that started when she
was just 15 years old. At that time, she saw
Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5 called to a fire
on Telegraph Hill and she rallied a group of
bystanders to help the engine get up the hill
to the fire. From then on, she often rode with
Co. Number 5, and she
was even recognized as
an honorary firefighter.
Today, she is still remem-
bered as the matron
saint of San Francisco
The tower’s rich history and architectural
appeal draw in locals and visitors alike. The
view from the observation deck at the top of the
210-foot tower showcases the dynamic city at
“You can take in how San Francisco as a city
and a county has developed over the years,” said
Connie Chan, deputy director of public affairs
with the city’s Recreation and Park Department,
which manages the tower. Maps inside Coit
Tower illustrate how San Francisco has changed
and visitors can compare these maps to what
they see in “real-time” at the top of the observation deck.
OF THE COIT
DONE IN FRESCO
The tower was designed
by the firm of architect
Arthur Brown Jr., and
took five years to build.
With an art deco style and unpainted reinforced
concrete, Coit Tower is both an architectural
and historical gem. It was added to the U.S.
National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Along with the breathtaking views, the tower is
adorned with 27 murals on the first and second
floors of the tower. The murals on the first floor
are open to the public, while the second floor
is only accessible during once-a-week tours.
The Coit Tower murals were funded by the
federal government through the Public Works
Art Project, a precursor to Works Progress
Administration (WPA)-era programs that supported artists. The murals are treasured by
locals and tourists, and are lauded as one of the
most successful examples of public art throughout the United States.
“They are just fantastic,” said Allison
Cummings, senior registrar for the Civic
Art Collection with the San Francisco Arts
Commission. “They are such a priceless cultural
asset for this city. People are amazed to walk in
and see them. They are a really neat example of
architecturally integrated pieces of art.”
The murals depict life in California and
the Bay Area during the Great Depression. A
number of the murals were inspired by Diego