National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
Coit Tower, located atop Telegraph Hill, rises 180 feet from its base with a public observation deck thirty-two feet below the top. The Art Deco structure was designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., assisted by Henry Howard.
In January 1934, after receiving funds from the Civil Works Administration, artists transformed the interior of Coit Tower into a gallery of frescoes and murals, the first and largest Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in the United States. Other large PWAP projects in San Francisco were undertaken at the Rincon Annex Post Office and the Beach Chalet.
The Coit Tower murals possess exceptional value in interpreting the themes of the Great Depression and New Deal idealism and in showcasing the work of twenty-five of the region’s finest artists, including four women. The murals, influenced by Diego Rivera and painted in the American Social Realism style, depict life in San Francisco and rural California.
A wing depicts industrial production and science. A wing depicts San Francisco food production. A wing depicts life in The City. The stairwell, designed by San Francisco artist Lucian Labaudt, depicts busy downtown scenes of Powell Street in 1934 using familiar faces.
The upstairs was painted by the Ivory Tower Group of the Regionalists faction, artists who desired to preserve the sentimental illusion of an isolated American purity with a nationalistic streak, even as the fabric of the nation was tattered by the protracted Great Depression.
Source: Adapted from the NRHP Nomination Form submitted in 2007 and updated in 2018.
Lillie Hitchcock Coit bequeathed $125,000 to San Francisco to be spent “for the purpose of adding beauty to the city which I have always loved”.
Coit often dressed as a man to gamble in North Beach saloons, smoked cigars, publicly ice-skated in shortened skirts, and was even discovered by her husband on a men’s camping trip. She spent several years wowing the courts of Europe after a deranged relative took a shot at her in a San Francisco hotel.
Today she is best known for her lifelong passion for firefighting. After becoming a mascot to the Knickerbocker Hose Company #5 in 1863, she rarely missed a blaze. Coit Tower is the tangible result of her flamboyant love affair with the city.
Source: San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department
You can still run into Lillie Coit on the streets of San Francisco, often accompanied by Emperor Norton, paricularly at the Pride Parade and other civic celebrations.
The statue of Christopher Columbus was commissioned by San Francisco's large Italian-American community.It was cast in Verona, Italy, in 1957 and shipped to San Francisco. The sculptor was Count Vittorio di Colbertaldo of Verona, a member of Benito Mussolini’s ceremonial bodyguard, the Black Musketeers.
On June 18, 2020, during the George Floyd protests, city workers removed the statue and placed it in storage.
Coit Tower is also San Francisco Landmark 165.