Coit Tower: Firebelle Lillie

We’re sure you’ve seen or even been to Coit Tower. What with it being so tall on a hill.

Purple Hour On Coit Tower and San Francisco Skyline, from Russian Hills, California, USA

But did you know about Lillie Hitchcock Coit?

Lillie Hitchcock Coit was a known eccentric socialite back in the day. Smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so- she was in a league of her own. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Another thing she loved? chasing fires. And countless stories of her adventures can be found everywhere.


Lillie’s will would in the future read that she wished for one third of her fortune, amounting to $118,000, “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” Two memorials were built in her name. One was Coit Tower, and the other was a sculpture depicting three firemen, one of them carrying a woman in his arms. Lillie is today the matron saint of San Francisco firefighters.

Before the end of 1866, there was no city firemen nor fire department in SF and fires in the city so fires were extinguished by several volunteer fire companies. Learn more about Firebelle Lillie’s adventures here and here.

Posted by: Rebecca White on

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