Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Coit Tower and the Filbert Street Steps

Coit Tower is one of my favorite places to visit. It sits on top of Telegraph Hill where a semaphore telegraph was established in the 1850's to give townspeople notice of arriving ships.

Statue of Christopher Columbus
stands in front of Coit Tower

It still has the best views of the city and bay.

The Bay Bridge framed by trees at Coit Tower.

However, twenty-seven frescoes of 1930's California life are the outstanding features of Coit Tower. They were created by a group of artists through a Depression-era work program. 

Victor Arnautoff painted City Life. The collaged scenes include a mailman, a newsstand, a holdup, an accident and, in a nod to Lillie Hitchcock Coit, her favorite #5 fire truck. 

City Life by Victor Arnautoff

Three more artists created these scenes. The Tower's deep, angled window embrasures were used in a variety of ways. Mr. Zakheim created bookcases in his. I especially liked how Ms. Scheuer painted the four-color method of printing the Sunday comics in hers.

Library by Bernard Zakheim,
Newsgathering by Suzanne Scheuer and
 Surveyor by Clifford Wright.
This is part of a large wall of California agriculture. Don't you love the beach pajamas of one flower picker?

California by Maxine Albro
depicts many of their crops.

The previous murals are on the main floor, but one of the delightful secrets of Coit Tower is the murals in the staircase and second floor. These are only visible if you take a City Guides Walking Tour so plan accordingly. 

Lucien Labaudt painted Powell Street on the circular staircase. Since he was a dress and costume designer, his figures are all stylishly clothed. What a treat for those of us who love fabric.

Powell Street by Lucien Labaudt 
covers both sides of the circular staircase.

All the sports of the day are included in Parker Hall's mural - even a Stanford/Cal Berkeley football game over the doorway (which is only partially visible here.) 
Collegiate Life by Parker Hall 
with a portion of Lucien Labaudt's Powell Street.

Finally, my absolute favorite are these scenes of Home Life by Jane Berlandina. The other frescoes are painted buono (wet) but Ms. Berlandina painted her room secco (dry) with egg tempera in a very limited palette of dark red, brown and chartreuse with white outlines.

Home Life: Living Room
by Jane Berlandina

Although there are buses, the best way to get to Coit Tower is to climb the intimidating Filbert Street Steps.

The base of the Filbert Street Steps.
Some are wooden and others are concrete.

They are certainly long but there are several landings where you can rest and enjoy the many flowers, shrubs, birds and views.

Roses and calla lilies
on the Filbert Street Steps.

 Enjoy the day,

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