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The Coit Tower, which can be found atop Telegraph Hill, is one of the most renowned attractions in San Francisco, partly because of the fact that it offers some excellent views. Visitors can pay a fee to enjoy the views from the tower's top, or they can save some money and savor them from the parking lot. Since the Coit Tower sits on one of the highest points in the city, the views are surprisingly quite good even from the parking lot. This historical, landmark tower in San Francisco isn't all about the great views. It also houses two impressive murals and an interesting gift shop.
The history of the Coit Tower, much like the history of San Francisco, is a rather fascinating one. This Art Deco tower was completed in 1933, and it was built for Lillie Hitchcock Coit. This wealthy eccentric, who inherited quite a sum of money from her well to do parents, was one of the city's most interesting personalities of the day. From the time she was little, Lillie Hitchcock Coit was fascinated by firemen, and this had a lot to do with a specific episode. One afternoon back in 1858, the then seven year old Lillie helped to pull a struggling fire engine up Telegraph Hill. She was also largely responsible for recruiting other passersby for help. The fortified group managed to pull the Knickerbocker No. 5 up the hill, allowing it to reach the fire before the other fire engines arrived. When it comes to the history of the Coit Tower, it is interesting to note that Lillie Hitchcock Coit left San Francisco one-third of her fortune for the project. The amount totaled $125,000.
The Coit Tower isn't necessarily the most beautiful structure in the city, though it isn't exactly ugly either. The tower stands 210 feet tall, and it is made of reinforced concrete. The concrete is not painted, which makes for a relatively stark appeal. As colorless as the exterior is, the same can not be said about the interior. This is where the Coit Tower murals can be found. These two murals were supported by the Public Works of Art Project, which was a federal program for artists that corresponded to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. The commission for the Coit Tower Murals was received in 1933, and not long thereafter, a collection of artists came together to execute the project. Many of artists who worked on the two murals studied under Diego Rivera, who was a world-famous muralist that hailed from Mexico.
The lobby murals at the Coit Tower are extensive, and parts of them can be viewed on any given day. Unfortunately, the murals continue behind a door next to the gift shop, and these parts can only be viewed on Saturdays. Saturday is the day when the San Francisco City Guides offer their free tours of the tower. These tours allow visitors to enjoy the full scope of the murals, and they also offer insight into the overall history of the Coit Tower. It's interesting to note that some of the artists who worked on the Coit Tower murals incorporated leftist/communist ideas into their specific parts. These artists intended to honor Rivera, who was maligned for his inclusion of an image of Lenin in one of his works. This work, which was called Man at the Crossroads, was destroyed by the same Rockefeller Center patrons who commissioned it.
While the murals at Coit Tower are best viewed on the Saturday tours, the scintillating views from the tower's top can be enjoyed on any given day. These views afford visitors with sweeping shots of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the beautiful downtown skyline, and even Treasure Island off in the distance. An elevator takes interested visitors to the top of the tower, and while fees apply, they are more than reasonable. As for finding the Coit Tower itself, it is hard to miss atop its Telegraph Hill perch. Tourists who want to visit the tower can simply make a break for the eastern side of North Beach, which is also occasionally referred to as the Red Light District.
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