LA Times: Hard Times For A Tower And Its Murals

Hard times for a tower and its murals

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 ~ Lee Romney

The frescoes encapsulate Depression-era California: Scenes depicting idyllic farm and factory life roll out beside those of grueling economic hardship. Urban shoppers browse for toys. A small boy witnesses a mugging.

No one disputes their historical value. But the works — along with their iconic Art Deco home, San Francisco’s fluted Coit Tower — are in trouble.

Mineral blooms on the concrete pillar’s interior walls, a byproduct of this city’s legendary fog, have marred the earth- and jewel-toned images. Their surfaces bear chips and scratches from the indiscreet hands of countless visitors. The ceiling plaster is peeling. The lighting is dim.

“San Francisco cannot continue to position itself as a great city of arts and culture when it behaves this way,” former state librarian and California historian Kevin Starr said after admiring the frescoes during a recent tour with friends. “Imagine if we treated Rockefeller Center like this.”

Starr’s voice is the latest in a rising chorus of concern over conditions at Coit Tower.

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