Among the many enviable sights in San Francisco are the hundreds of stairways up and down its forty-two hills. The sometimes majestic, quirky stairways link the diverse neighborhoods of this wonderful city.
Adah Bakalinsky’s book, Stairway Walks of San Francisco describes each of the walks. Pack a lunch and let’s go.
For this stairway walk you need to go along Battery St. to the large brick Levi Strauss building, and a small stairway on the side of the hill across the street takes you up through thick foliage and flowering plants in season. Climbing about 375 steps with small stopping places to catch your breath, you will pass the entrances of charming houses built on the side of this steep hill. In the many times we have climbed it, I have never discovered where they enter with groceries, etc. I’m quite sure they don’t carry things up and down by foot. But this fairyland of whimsical private entries has captivated my imagination for years.
This walk is famous for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. Home to a large flock of feral parrots comprised of both cherry-headed and blue-crowned conures, midway up the hill while enjoying the view of the startling blue of San Francisco Bay, the chatter of these birds seem to surround you. For years they were cared for by Mark Bittner, a young musician living in a cabin on the hillside. They became quite tame as you can see.
The culmination of this walk is the crowning glory of Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. With a 360 degree view of the city and the Bay it is well worth the climb. Find a nice place to sit and enjoy your lunch and then go inside. The tower was paid for with money left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit at her death in 1929.
Lillie was a true San Francisco eccentric. She loved to chase fire engines, and at age 15 after running to see a fire, she threw her schoolbooks to the ground and pitched in to help the firefighters. She became the mascot of Engine Co. No. 5 and an honorary firefighter. As an adult, she loved to gamble, often dressing as a man in trousers, and smoking a cigar.
Inside the tower you will be charmed by the murals on each wall. Commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project, they were the first of the New Deal Federal employment programs. Created by artists mainly from the faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts, with one done by Adah Bakalinsky’s father, which includes a likeness of her as a young girl. Most paintings are done in fresco, with the exception of one in egg tempera.
Take the elevator to the top of the tower and after you have enjoyed the amazing view of the City of St. Francis, walk down the other side into North Beach, where small shops, bakeries and restaurants will paint the finish to a perfect day. Be sure to stop at Molinari’s Deli for cheeses, perhaps some ravioli or maybe a sandwich for dinner.
Grab your walking shoes, your camera and a sandwich and let’s go!!