Perched on the summit of Telegraph Hill is the Coit Tower, a landmark constructed using a bequest to the City and County of San Francisco by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Coit, a widow without children, specified in her will that two-thirds of her estate go to the Universities of California and Maryland, and the remaining one-third go to the City and County of San Francisco to beautify her favorite city.
After Coit's death, a design competition was held to determine the form of the memorial. The winning design was a tower to be constructed in Pioneer Park at the top of Telegraph Hill. The tower was dedicated in October 1933.
At the time that the tower's physical structure was completed, the building was largely without adornment. The original plan for the tower had included a restaurant, but, during the construction of the tower, the restaurant idea was dropped in favor of using the space at the base of the tower for exhibitions depicting San Francisco's pioneer days. Two months after the tower's dedication, a New Deal program was launched to hire artists to adorn public buildings in the area and a plan was developed to paint the interior walls of the tower with murals. By January 1934, a team of 26 artists were at work covering the interior walls of the tower with frescoes. Several months later, controversy arose over the content of some of the murals, which celebrated industrial and agricultural working men and women, and including some symbols that were considered to embrace the ideals of communism. These symbols were eventually replaced by other subjects, and the completed murals were revealed to the public in October 1934.
Today tourists flock to the tower to see the artwork inside of it, and for a $3 elevator ride to the observation deck on top of the tower. The view from the tower is stunning. Already perched on top of a hill, the tower provides a great vantage point for seeing across the bay to the East Bay cities, Marin County to the north, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean to the west, and the city itself surrounding the tower.
Getting to the Coit Tower is easiest by taking the no. 39 Muni bus or walking. Parking at the top of the hill is very limited. The walk up Telegraph Hill is steep and can be exhausting, but on nice days the views are incredible and worth the effort. If you do take the bus to the top of the tower, I recommend walking back down, using one of several public stairways that descend the hill from the tower. My favorite is the Filbert Steps, which descends through the trees (watch for the wild parrot flock that lives here) past houses (some reachable only by the steps), flower gardens, and Napier Lane, the last of the city's wooden plank streets, to Levi's Plaza and the Embarcadero.
More information on the tower is available on the Coit Tower website.