November 2012 Coit Tower News

November 2012

Some of the latest news about the special place we call Coit Tower.


Protect Coit Tower organized a historic meeting of members of the family of Lillie Hitchcock Coit and the descendants of a Coit Tower mural artist earlier this month at Coit Tower.

Members of the Coit family had gathered in San Francisco from around the country to remember and celebrate Barbara Coit of San Francisco, a long-time champion for Coit Tower who passed away in late September.  At 12 noon on Monday, November 12th, they met at Coit Tower with relatives of one of the Coit Tower mural artists to inspect the long-awaited repairs that the city has begun to make to Coit Tower in response to the public outcry over the past year about the neglect and damage to the building and the historic art inside.  They were also treated to a fabulous tour of the Coit Tower murals by expert volunteer guide Rory O’Connor.

As reported by KCBS news, “Together they inspected some of the restoration and repairs underway of the Depression-era murals atop Telegraph Hill and came away impressed.  Ruth Gottstein was 11-years-old when her father, artist Bernard Zakheim painted her into a fresco for posterity at Coit Tower. ‘I’m the little girl in the middy-blouse down in the left hand corner, and I remember coming up to the tower while the artists were working here. You’d come in and smell the wet plaster. It was an extraordinary time,’ she said.  Gottstein was met, for the first time ever, by descendant of benefactor Lillie Coit, who left the City the money to build the tower. Coit’s great-great-great-great niece, Susie Coit Williams, said bearing the historic name is a ‘great’ responsibility.  ‘It’s almost overwhelming. I always want to make sure that I’m respectful and cognizant of what it means to everyone here,’ she said, adding that she’s thrilled to see the tower finally being fixed. ‘It’s so essential. I hope it’s here forever.’”

View a video news clip of this fabulous moment and historic meeting by clicking here:


The first phase in a year-long series of renovation and restoration work at Coit Tower is scheduled to be completed soon.  Since the scaffolding went up in late October, workers have been removing and entirely replacing the second floor roof, which a city report earlier this year identified as partially responsible for water leaks causing damage to the murals and building. 

All work is being conducted through exterior building access without the contractors hauling heavy equipment through the second floor mural rooms near fragile murals that were damaged by poorly-supervised building maintenance projects in the past.  The San Francisco Art Commission conducted an on-site mural preservation training with project workers before any of the repairs began.

The second floor roof replacement work is taking place seven days a week, between the hours of 7:00 am and 4:00 pm.  The project is scheduled to be fully completed in mid-December.

A broad range of Coit Tower building repairs and renovations is scheduled to begin in mid-March, with a completion date at the end of July.  However, it is still unclear whether the city will move forward with all – or only some – of the repairs and mural preservation actions recommended by the city’s Coit Tower Assessment Report.  Download a summary of the city’s current plans for Coit Tower restoration by clicking here:


Under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, KQED-TV will soon be launching an exciting new multi-media project to promote education and awareness about the Coit Tower murals and other New-Deal era artworks in San Francisco.  Entitled New Deal Murals of San Francisco, the KQED project will feature free iphone and smart phone apps with original audio and video walking tours containing new information and interviews with historians about the Coit Tower murals and other New Deal art around San Francisco.  

As the very first publicly funded New Deal art project, the 27 Coit Tower murals (23 frescoes and 4 oil paintings) and the 25 master artists who created them between January and June of 1934 will receive special attention and exploration as part of the KQED project.  Part of KQED’s “Let’s Get Lost” mobile storytelling program, the New Deal Murals of San Francisco will help visitors and locals alike to better explore the history of some of the city’s New Deal-era murals within the dynamic social and political context of the 1930s.  

The KQED project is now in the final stages of completion and expected to launch within the next two months.  All of us dedicated to celebrating and protecting Coit Tower for generations to come are very much looking forward to it.

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