An initial blast of ninety dynamite kegs in 1867 sheared away the once gentle slope on the eastern side to form the Telegraph Hill Quarry. The main purpose of the site was to supply rocks to be used as ballast for the empty sailing ships leaving port. George and Harry Gray’s quarry continued for another thirty years until lawsuits and rioting locals shut down the operation.
Following the 1906 earthquake, there was a need for new construction in its aftermath, including the building of a seawall on the Embarcadero. As the quarry encroached closer to housing, however, falling rocks injured children and adults, resulting in litigation and community protests. Soon thereafter, the company’s secretary was slain followed by George Gray himself. (more…)
A coyote of Telegraph Hill has taken up residence with the wild parrots in North Beach of San Francisco. There has been an increase in urbanized coyotes around the City in general, causing Animal Care & Control to put up warning signs on popular walking paths. The critters have shown they can survive in a surprisingly small territory such as the five-acre Pioneer Park, which surrounds Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. The sudden increase in coyotes likely started when they ventured across the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County and began thriving in the Presidio before migrating south toward Golden Gate Park. (more…)
If you’re seeking an adventure, explore the steps of Telegraph Hill. Once you’re at Coit Tower, find the path near the statue of Christopher Columbus and head down the Greenwich Steps where you’ll be wowed by the neighborhood forest and lush gardens. Along the way there are benches to take a break and absorb your surroundings. A fun flower to watch for is the Angel Trumpet as well as bee boxes, vegetable plots and some of the craziest rose bushes ever. (more…)
The feral parrots of Telegraph Hill are primarily red-masked parakeets, descended from escaped or released pets. The flock was popularized by a book and subsequent documentary (2003), both titled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.
Filmed in 2005, the movie won 4 awards at different film festivals for best documentary. Through Mark Bittner’s own words, we learn of his life as a frustrated, homeless musician and how he came to live in the area where he decided to explore the nature around him. That lead him to discovering the parrot flock and the individual personalities of it. In a cinematic portrait, we are introduced to his colorful companions and the relationship they share as well as the realities of urban wild life that would change Bittner’s life forever. (more…)
Julius’ Castle, the historic San Francisco restaurant perched near the foot of Coit Tower, is still battling to reopen to diners. Although the Planning Commission has already recommended conditional use authorization to return the vacant city landmark to its roots as a restaurant, they issued a continuance last week, delaying their final approval until July 6, 2018.
A registered local landmark and among the city’s longest-running eating establishments, Julius’ Castle operated from 1922 until 2007, when its then property owner tried to rent it out as a non-restaurant space. No would-be royalty moved in, and current owner Paul Scott bought the property in 2012 to return it to its former use.
The Coit Tower murals were done under the auspices of the Public Works Art Project as part of F.D.R.’s New Deal to provide jobs for artists and help combat the 1930’s depression. The artworks depict the socialist views of the day. The photo on the left is a self-portrait of an artist reaching for a copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. The photo on the right tries to illustrate racial equality among the working force. Other murals showcase the artists’ cynical view of city-life such as an auto-pedestrian accident (which looks fatal) while another mural portrays a man being robbed by a team of thugs amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life. The murals inside Coit Tower often paint workers in the heroic poses of socialist realism while well-dressed racially white members of the capitalist classes enjoy the fruits of their labor. (more…)
Lillie Coit was one of the more eccentric characters in the history of Telegraph Hill, smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gain entrance into the highroller establishments that dotted North Beach. She loved to chase fires and on one incident at age fifteen, she threw her school texts down and ordered bystanders to pitch-in to put out a blaze. Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5 made her their official mascot, rendering her a perpetual Hall Pass to miss school when “duty” called. Her Last Will and Testament funded the monument following her death in 1929.
Telegraph Hill provides spectacular views in all directions. If you face the west, you can see Russian Hill, Marin County, the Golden Gate and its fantastic Pacific sunsets. Move to the north side to see Alcatraz, Angel Island and the bay, its waters changing in color and pattern with tidal currents and variations in the weather. A little further in the direction of the morning sun are the cities along the eastern shore, including Oakland. (more…)
Telegraph Hill is one of San Francisco’s forty-four substantial mounds. The many Irish immigrants who settled there formerly knew it as Goat Hill. Interesting enough, it soon became a burial ground for non-Catholic seamen. Hmmm (I’m not going there). The hill owes its name to a semaphore, which would signal the townspeople as to the nature of ships and their cargo coming through the Golden Gate. If a merchant didn’t have this advance knowledge, he might be hoodwinked into paying too high a price for his product. (more…)
Here are a couple of San Francisco restaurants of yesteryear that I wish were still with us. The Shadows on Telegraph Hill was formerly located at 1349 Montgomery Street. Maybe you couldn’t afford to take your sweetheart to Julius Castle down the street, but at the Shadows a sawbuck would land you a classy dish from their extensive German-Swiss-Continental menu. My date selected hasenpfeffer, a stew made from marinated rabbit. Another patron approached and complained about her eating the “nice, fussy” animal. The chef stormed out of the kitchen and lectured the person on the history of his favorite cuisine. After dinner, we relaxed by the bar in the Swiss chalet room, drinking our sweet-and-sour cocktails while gazing out the picture window to the Bay Bridge and beyond. A romantic adventure led us across the street to the nearby Filbert Steps where I stole a kiss from my date to the background music of wild parrots. (more…)