What is the History of Coit Tower

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I would like to know the full History of Coit Tower . I would lso like to know it current use today .

-- Alfred Anderson (al@tld.com), April 21, 1998


What's the history about Coit Tower?

-- Alix Alonso (america@worldline.com.br), May 17, 1998.

Do a search on "+coit +tower +san +francisco" in Yahoo. There are literally dozens of sites out there about this landmark.

-- Ron Filion (rfilion@geocities.com), May 19, 1998.

Coit Tower is a monument to the City's firefighters (not intended to resemble a fireplug, as some claim) which was built for San Francisco using some of the fortunes of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy socialite who loved to chase fires in the early days of the City's history. Due to the wooden structure of the buildings, San Francisco burned to the ground numerous times, and was serviced by several volunteer fire companies, before an active fire department went into operation on December 3, 1866. It is now a popular destination of tourists, and the park in which it sits presents a magnificent view of the City, especially the Russian Hill area.

-- Robert W. Summers (summerstime@yahoo.com), January 05, 1999.

The Myth continues. Coit Tower was NOT built to honor the firemen! That is a myth that even the most knowledgable San Franciscans continue telling. Lillie Hitchcock Coit was the daughter of a wealthy family (Hitchcock's). She was a rambunctious woman of society who also loved to do unladylike things in the 1860's and 1870's - like go to bars and smoke cigars. She also loved firemen, and became the mascot of Knickerbocker Company #5, volunteer fire company.

In 1929, when she died at the age of 86, she left $125,000 for a beautification project. This was the depression era, so the City didn't have a lot of money for these things. Several entries, mostly of the traditional sculpture variety, were presented to the Arts Commission. Henry Howard was an architect with the firm Blakewell and Brown, which designed our City Hall. He designed what he called a "simple fluted shaft." Howard claimed there was no prototype for his design, although a couple of similar designs are in Europe where they house power plants. Howard also said it was not designed to resemble a fire nozzle. These statements are in the minutes of the Art Commission.

The confusion may lie in the fact that Lillie also commissioned a statue to honor her beloved firemen. That statue is in Washington Square, in North Beach. It depicts a couple of firemen, one rescuing a little girl.

You can read the definitive story of Coit Tower in a book by Masha Zackheim. She's the daughter of one of the muralists who painted the murals on the inside walls of Coit Tower. This was done in 1934 under the direction of Art Deco muralist Diego Rivera, as part of FDR's arts program to stimulate the economy during the depression. These murals depict the working man's life during the depression era.

-- Peter Moylan (pmoylan@trammellcrow.com), July 02, 1999.

Coit tower looks like a poll!

-- Hadley Suter (suter03@townschool.com), May 05, 2003.

If you have any friends who work for Firemen's Fund Insurance, or have a lot of time to scrounge in Bay Area bookstores, you might be able to get ahold of their company history book. It's a coffee table sized one and has really, really interesting stories about Ms. Coit, the insurance coverage for the 1906 earthquake and fire (ooops, was I supposed to capitalize that?). One photo of Ms. Coit with her firefighter friends has the caption, "No, that is not a bouquet of flowers in her hand." She's holding a bottle of champagne. Uncorked and ready to share.

-- Rosa (rosadebon@yahoo.com), May 09, 2003.

Rosa: My dad worked for the Fund for nearly forty years and remember that book well. It had a prominent place in our living room. The title is "Still Flying and Nailed to the Mast", a reference to the status of the Fireman's Fund company flag following the '06 quake.

-- John Martini (jamartin@slip.net), May 11, 2003.

I miss the red brick building at California and Kearny, don't you? The intersection just doesn't look the same without it.

Which brings me to an OT question: When that crane fell over in 1989 and its counterweight crashed through the pavement at California and Kearny, did it puncture or obliterate the emergency cistern that is (supposedly is?) under each downtown intersection in case of another fire?

-- Rosa (rosadebon@yahoo.com), May 13, 2003.

Even though it is stated and written that the Coit Tower was not created in honor and tribute of firemen, it still looks like a very strong Freudian slip!

-- John A. Lowell (jxlowell@covad.net), June 25, 2003.

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