This 210ft (64m) concrete turret, built by City Hall architect Arthur Brown in 1933, was a gift to the city from the eccentric Lillie Hitchcock Coit, famed for her love of firemen. Legend has it that as a schoolgirl, Coit happened upon the Knickerbocker #5 Volunteer Fire Company attempting to haul their fire engine up steep Telegraph Hill. As their energy flagged, she grabbed the rope and exhorted the men to pull on. From that day on, she became the mascot of the #5s. Upon her death, she bequeathed a massive sum to the city. A memorial to her beloved Knickerbockers was erected in Washington Square, and Coit Tower was built to fulfil her wish to 'add to the beauty of the city I have always loved'. While most assume that the tower represents the nozzle of a fire hose, the architects always denied it.
The spectacular views from the top aren't the tower's only attraction. Under the supervision of Diego Rivera, some wonderful murals were created here, a series of socialist-realist images so subversive that, when they were completed in 1934, delayed the opening so that an errant hammer and sickle could be erased.