January 2013 Coit Tower News

2013 marks 80 years since the construction of Coit Tower was completed on October 8, 1933.  Fittingly, this year promises to be another transformational year in the life of this special place and the unique murals that reside inside.  Some of the latest Coit Tower news:


Plans by the city to hand over the keys to Coit Tower to a new outside vendor appear to be stalled after an end-of-year deadline set by the city agency currently responsible for Coit Tower came and went.  In a letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last fall, Recreation and Parks Department Director Phil Ginsburg pledged to “present a new lease for the operation of the concessions at Coit Tower by the end of the year” after finalizing an agreement with Terry Grimm, the operator of Kenwood Inn and Spa and Anchor Oyster Bar, who the Department selected last June to take over Coit Tower operations from the current vendor (read the letter by clicking here).  However, no such lease materialized by the end of the year or has so far in 2013.  Indications are that Mr. Grimm – who received positive marks from community members for his open approach and interest in improving Coit Tower – has been unable to reach financial terms with the city that would make it fiscally feasible for him to proceed.

Meanwhile, the visitors center at Lands’ End/Sutro Baths – overhauled last year by the National Park Service, in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy – has been getting rave reviews for its classy design and emphasis on education rather than commercialism.  Read a recent review here & go visit yourself:  http://www.sacbee.com/2013/01/13/5106341/discoveries-lookout-at-sfs-lands.html


Bruce Chesse, son of Coit Tower artist Ralph Chesse, recently visited San Francisco from his home in Oregon to record an oral history with the Arts Commission and see his father’s mural for the first time in years.  The Chesse mural, entitled “Children At Play,” is a 9 foot by 6 foot fresco located on the Tower’s second floor, which has been closed to the public for decades and can currently only be viewed on special tours.  Taking one of these tours in late December, Bruce was able to see his father’s mural (see a photo of Bruce in front of his father's mural by clicking here).  Bruce noted that, while his father was an incredibly prolific painter and sculptor, the Coit Tower mural was the only fresco he ever painted.  Ralph Chesse was best known as a professional puppeteer, working mainly in children’s theater and in 1952 creating the popular morning TV show “Brother Buzz,” which aired for 17 years and taught kids the importance of being kind to animals.  (Learn about “Brother Buzz” here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQmuGyX5i6s

Bruce himself became a professional puppeteer, actor, and teacher, which he remains today.  Learn more about Ralph, Bruce, and the Chesse family by clicking here.  http://chesseartsltd.com/


Winter rains in December and early January caused water to seep into Coit Tower, but a renewed public demand for mural preservation appears to have helped prevent new damage to historic frescoes already in need of repairs.  A series of heavy rainstorms in early December leaked rainwater into the main floor of Coit Tower in several places, including the southeast ceiling directly over the fresco “Department Store” by Frede Vidar.  City workers already conducting major repairs of the second floor were quickly alerted to the leaks, installed temporary plastic sheeting over the Vidar mural and adjacent areas and alerted the Arts Commission, which implemented additional measures.  The water leaks – which have been an ongoing danger to the murals since Coit Tower was first built – are expected to be eliminated by additional metal “flashing” that has been added to the existing roof repair project, which should be completed soon.

Read a San Francisco Examiner story about the rain leaks and response by clicking here:  http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/12/rain-seeps-coit-tower-damage-murals-averted - 


Finally, this request from a fan of Lillie & Coit Tower looking for an artistic collaborator:

Hello Friends of Coit Tower,

I too am fascinated by this tower, a generous donation to the city of SF by the very interesting Lillie Coit.  I researched her life and was so intrigued that I wrote a book for children about this amazing lady, who is an example of perseverance, generosity, and curiosity.  I am looking for an illustrator - one who is willing to draw San Francisco in the 1850s.  The book is geared to 5-8 year olds and I hope to share it in local schools, maybe dressing as Lillie and telling her story.  I believe it is a tragedy that kids growing up in SF have no idea who she was, and how she inspired people.  If you would like to work with me in this self-publishing adventure, please be in touch. 
Barbara Lockwood  - Cell phone # {831} 234-0973 - barbaralck@sbcglobal.net

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