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Landmarks: Coit Tower

By Nicole Stock

Coit Tower is a San Francisco treasure—really, you can’t miss it. A shining star of the skyline, its Art Deco design remains as unique as its history. Lillie Hitchcock Coit, for whom the structure is named, was a turn-of-the-century rule-breaker who became known as the biggest champion of the city’s volunteer firefighters; her donation to San Francisco funded the Coit, which   sits atop Telegraph Hill.

Arthur Brown Jr., the architect also responsible for San Francisco City Hall, designed it. The tower was completed in 1933, though not until 1984 did it earn a landmark distinction.

While its elegant exterior continues to be a sight for sore eyes from the ground, visitors headed up to the top may find themselves taken aback by the views looking out at the sweeping cityscape from the inside.

Beyond those views, and that architecture, Coit Tower boasts a few other hidden gems. Lining the interior walls at the base is the product of a 1934 public works project: large murals meant to display what life was like in California during the Great Depression. Though many people contributed to the creation of the murals, one artist, Jose Moya del Pino, created his artwork on canvas instead of plaster. Three more Moya del Pino murals can also be found in the Merchants Exchange Club downtown.

A popular tourist destination by day, at night the Coit puts on a light show to rival the Empire State Building. According to Connie Chan of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department, the tower, like many other notable buildings in the city, features different lights for different occasions—whether it be blue for a Golden State Warriors’ win, rainbow for the Pride festivities, or red, white and blue for the Fourth of July, the Coit—projecting history and optimism—shines a bit brighter than the rest.

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