Hydrant: Below Coit

Whenever I go to San Francisco, I take a pilgrimage to Coit Tower. I don’t know why. It’s one of those things you do and you feel compelled to do it, and yet you don’t know why and you don’t know what it means. All I know, is that it doesn’t feel right to go to San Francisco and not do it.

When you approach Coit Tower from Filbert or Kearny Streets, you will find this hydrant where the two streets merge at a 90-degree curve. The hydrant is tall and skinny, which means it’s supplied by the city water supply and not the Auxiliary Water Supply System. More on this soon. Maybe tomorrow I will bore you with more San Francisco Hydrant trivia. For now, I’ll just say that all the skinny white hydrants deliver low-pressure city water. After the earthquake and great fire of 1906, the city built the Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS) as a way to ensure water delivery in the event of an earthquake/fire situation that might break the water mains (which is what happened in 1906, and is part of the reason the fire raged for three days and pretty much destroyed most of the city.) The AWSS hydrants are supplied by three main reservoirs and 177 strategically-placed cisterns and they have a different appearance from the low-pressure city-water ones.

Anyway, the point is, when I go to San Francisco, I usually try to take a walk to Coit Tower. And I stop at this hydrant and I look west. Maybe I sit right here. I am usually sweating from the climb even though the air is cool. Just above and behind me is Coit Tower, which you can get to from a narrow set of stairs. Just below is the North Beach area, famous for Italian restaurants and City Lights Book Store and Vesuvio and Caffe Trieste, which are all good Beat-Poet landmarks.

Here is the same hydrant from a trip I took to the spot in 2006:


It seems to have had at least one paint job since 2006, and the addition of the numbers painted on the side, which could refer to the diameter of the outet, but I haven’t figured that out for sure, yet. Maybe I will look that up tomorrow.

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