Monday, March 22, 2010

Lily the Vamp - The Story of San Francisco's Coit Tower (1933)

Oh, pure and true and kind in all thy ways!

Not less a servant of thy Lord

Because thy ways are little in accord

With the suave blandness of these silken days.

Thou, self-contained yet tender,

What carest thou for popular power or praise ?

—Rev. Alfred Todhunter.

It was in 1886 that the flowery rector of San Francisco's St. John's Episcopal Church indited these lines to the recently widowed Lily Hitchcock Coit, already such a civic adornment that her photograph was entombed in the cornerstone of the new City Hall. This week all the public dignitaries of San Francisco and a few rheumy veterans of its honored Volunteer Fire Companies will climb to the top of Telegraph Hill to pay a last honor to Lily: the public dedication of a gleaming 181-ft. concrete shaft erected in her honor. At its base will be the thing Lily loved best in the world: the rickety, brass-trimmed Knickerbocker Fire Engine No. 5.

It is often a great solace to sedate socialites to have their pioneer ancestors safely framed on the dining room wall rather than seated at the dining room table. Because Lily died in 1929, because there are many conservative souls who vividly recall her goings on, because the memorial was erected with her own money, and finally because its site is the most prominent in all San Francisco, for many months there was agitation against erecting the tower at all. At the last minute the Park Commission bowed to the extent of changing the name from Coit Memorial Tower to Coit Tower. But no lady ever more richly deserved a lighthouse.

From Time magazine October 9, 1933, about Lily Hitchcock Coit, for whom SF's Coit Tower was erected.

Posted via web from timmmii

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