Coit Tower was built in 1933 with funds left to the City by philanthropist Lillie Hitchcock Coit for the beautification of San Francisco, "the city which I have always loved". The art-deco tower is built of reinforced concrete and took five years to complete. Legend has it that one afternoon on her way home from school, young Coit came to the assistance struggling Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5. With Coit's persuasion, bystanders helped haul the fire engine up a steep San Francisco hill so Engine Co. No. 5 was able to put out the fire. Coit's admiration for the fire fighters, many of whom fought the 1906 earthquake fires, lead many to falsely speculate that the tower is designed in the shape of a fire hose nozzle.
Coit Tower is located in Pioneer Park, a 4.89-acre park that once housed the first telegraph line in California (1853) and gave the hill its name. In 1957, a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, donated by the City Italian-American community, was placed in the park. Telegraph Hill was once home to numerous artists and writers including Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Joaquin Miller, Ambrose Bierce and Bret Harte.
Visiting Coit Tower - What's Inside
Inside the ground floor lobby is a history museum and 10-feet tall murals that were painted under the Public Works of Art Project, a program to employ artists, as part of the New Deal. The muralists were mainly faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). Completed in 1934, the murals depict California working life during the Great Depression and were controversial for their underlying political tone. Most of the murals have been restored and are open for public viewing. The murals in the spiral stairway, normally closed to the public, are open for viewing on Saturday mornings at 11am with San Francisco City Guides.
Coit Tower, operated by San Francisco Recreation and Park, is open daily from 10am to 6pm and admission to the tower elevator/viewing platform is $5. Stairs in the tower are for emergency use only.
Getting to Coit Tower
Coit Tower is located at the top of Telegraph Hill and access is limited to one winding and narrow road. Parking at the base of the tower is very limited. Muni's 39 bus line takes visitors to Coit Tower from Fisherman's Wharf.
Filbert Steps & The Wild Parrots
Another way to reach the top of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower is via the Filbert Steps. Catch the steps near Filbert and Montgomery Streets but be prepared for a steep climb up the east side of the hill. The walk affords magnificent vistas and passes beautiful cottage homes and private gardens.
Visitors using the Filbert Steps might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. This large squawking flock of parrots is often seen swooping amongst the trees on the lush hillside. The documentary film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill addresses the mystery of how the parrots came to make Telegraph Hill their home.