Sunday, February 22, 2009

Above It All - San Francisco's Coit Tower

During 5th and 6th grade my family lived in Walnut Creek, CA, a suburb of Oakland. On rare occasions, we crossed the bay to San Francisco, such as seeing the premiere of the Sound of Music on Mother's Day, or enjoying lunch in Chinatown with our Girl Scout troop. Coit Tower always intrigued me as it stood high above the pulsing city, but I never had a chance to visit.

When I visited Fisherman's Wharf last February, I was still on a tight schedule with no time to stop by the tower. However, at 9 a.m. on a chilly winter day, the 210-foot-tall structure still towered above the urban landscape to the east. Poised atop the 285-foot-tall Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower was clearly visible in the early morning light, surrounded by hills full of steep walkways and pastel-painted cottages.

But the next time I visit San Francisco, I'll finally make my way up Telegraph Hill, where visitors can see a 360-degree view of the City by the Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the famed curves of Lombard Street. The tower was commissioned by local philanthropist, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, in honor of fire fighters who battled blazes that resulted from the 1906 earthquake. The tower, built of unpainted reinforced concrete, also offers a history museum, and murals that depict Depression-era working class life in California.
Seventy-five years after it was erected, Coit Tower remains a picture postcard favorite and a San Francisco icon.

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