Wednesday, April 1, 2020

GOING BACK A FEW YEARS - THE COIT TOWER IN SAN FRANCISCO


Several years ago, later in the year of 2009, we took a road trip from Vancouver in British Columbia to Monterey in California. The memory is getting blurry but I believe we flew into Seattle, Washington and rented a car, heading north into Canada.  We didn't travel far over the border, just to Vancouver Island, spent a couple of days there, saying as we always do, we really have to stay longer next time, and then drove south.  
We stopped in San Francisco and Coit Tower was on our places to visit.  The last time we were there was when we were on another road trip, this time driving across country, heading from one duty station to another when Gregg was in the Navy.  Another lifetime ago now.  
Back then we asked my parents if they would like to go along, and we were exceedingly happy that they said yes.  Our son was two years' old and we packed ourselves into a small compact car, pulling an equally small rental trailer behind us.  It was quite the adventure and with my parents along, a trip of a lifetime.  Mom and Dad had a blast, not only for seeing this wonderful country, but it also gave them a lot of catch-up time with their grandson.  I love to look at our old photos from that trip.  I need to get them out again so that I can transfer everything onto the computer.  
Getting back to our 2009 road trip, this time we were happy to find that the tower was open.  Coit Tower is on the top of Telegraph Hill, was completed in 1933, and is a famous landmark.  We really did not know much about it but were delighted to find these amazing murals painted on the walls inside. 
Many of these murals depict the struggles of working class Americans, and were completed in 1933-34.  They are now protected as a national treasure.  At the top it provides 360 degree views of the city.
In 1858 Lillie Hitchock Coit became the mascot for San Francisco Firefighters at the young age of 15.  So the story goes, Lillie witnessed Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5, a private fire department, respond to a fire call on Telegraph Hill while understaffed.  She dropped her books to assist them to the source of the fire.  
After that they made her a mascot and when she returned from travels in Europe to San Francisco in 1863, she was made an honorary member of the engine company.  She then rode along with the firefighters when they went to a fire or were in parades, and attending their annual banquets.  When volunteer firefighters were ill she visited their sickbeds, and when they died she sent them flowers and attended funerals.   
A very interesting young lady, she would continue to break traditions for the rest of her life, smoking cigars, wearing trousers and gambling in the middle of the 19th century, long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so.  But she remained consistent in one thing, her support for San Francisco's firefighters.  Today, she is the matron saint of the San Francisco Firefighters. 
When Lillie passed away in July 1929, she left one-third of her estate to the City of San Francisco, "to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved."  The city used the bequest to build Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.  The remainder of her bequest also sponsored another neighborhood landmark, a statue of three firefighters at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park.
I obtained all this information here, where you can read a lot more information about her.  The photo below is one I borrowed from the site also.
The murals we saw were created by 27 different on-site artists and many assistants.  The project, going by the name of the Public Works Art Project, was the first of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs that hired artists.
Their works depicted various political ideologies, including racial equality and leftist, Marxist ideals.  For example, Bernard Zakheim's mural "Library", portrays fellow artist John Langley Howard crushing a newspaper in his hand as he stretches for a copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital.
However, some of the most contentious pieces were painted over after the longshoremen's strike of 1934, when a conversation about the radical work became heated.  Almost all of the murals are open to the public for free during the day hours, although there is a stretch of murals in the spiral stairway that is only opened to scheduled tours.
 If you go to this link you can read more about the murals and what they portray.  There were more that I didn't get a photo of.
I am going to end here with the written part of my post, and just let you look at the rest of the murals.










 You can see the history of Coit Tower here.

Enjoy your day and thanks for stopping by. Stay happy and healthy, and hang in there.  



32 comments:

  1. The murals are amazing! I think my favorite is the mailman one. Did you go to the top? Is there an elevator?

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    1. Hi Ginny, and thank you :) No we didn't go to the top. I am thinking it was not open at the time as I can't see that we would not have used the elevator. But this is one of those memories that is a little fuzzy as far as the reason.

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  2. It looks and sounds like a fabulous trip. thank you for taking us along, particularly at a time when travel is an impossible dream.

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    1. Thank you EC and it's nice to go armchair traveling right now, especially for the reason you mentioned.

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    1. Obrigado e desejo-lhe um abraço e uma boa semana continuada também :)

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  4. I lived in San Francisco in the 70s and visited Coit Tower but never went inside

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    1. I never heard of the murals before either. This was a very pleasant surprise. Thanks Linda :)

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  5. those murals are amazing, all of them. I am choosing the women picking.. when the tower came up, I recognized it right away, because we just watched 3 nights ago, the motive San Andrea.. earthquake movie. not worth watching but we were desperate. the tower starred in the movie... before the movie I would nothave known it

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    1. I thought so too. Interesting about the movie I enjoy movies when you see places you've visited. Thanks Sandra :)

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  6. Beautiful murals. I am glad your parents enjoyed the trip and being with your grandson.

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    1. Thank you Gigi, and those memories because more precious to us as we get older :)

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  7. You hit the mother lode here. Awesome photos of murals. I've never heard of this before.

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  8. Hello, the murals are just beautiful! I remember seeing the tower during a visi to San Francisco. Great memories and photos. Take care, have a happy day!

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    1. Interesting and thank you Eileen, you too :)

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  9. A great woman, very interesting story. These murals are beautiful.

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  10. I've seen Coit tower but never went inside. These are my kind of murals. Such beauties!

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    1. Me too, several times now but this is the only time we went inside :)

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  11. Amazing.I hope you are well, and your family safe. I have been rather neglectful of my blog friends so thought i would say hello
    Hugs Janice

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    1. Hi Janice, so good to see you here. We are all fine thank you and I hope the same for you and yours :)

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  12. The murals are amazing.
    Interesting post Denise, thank you.

    All the best Jan

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    1. So glad you enjoyed Jan. Thank you and all the best to you too :)

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  13. Thanks for an informative and very colorful post, Denise, and I was interested to learn about the woman for whom Coit tower is named. I've heard of it but never knew the back story.

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    1. You're very welcome Dorothy. Always happy to share and am grateful when someone finds what I am interest in interesting :)

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