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Lillie Hitchcock Coit

Lillie Hitchcock Coit (“Firebelle Lil”) was a well known, eccentric patron of San Francisco’s volunteer firefighters. Her life long passion for firefighting started when she was 17 years old when she witnessed a fire engine company struggling to make it to a fire on top of Telegraph Hill. She immediately sprung into action and assisted the team in pulling the fire wagon up the hill. From this point on she was adopted by the fire crew as an honorary member, leading parades, raising money, and visiting sick and injured firefighters in the hospital. Among other eccentricities, she was an avid gambler and loved smoking cigars and drinking liquor. She would often dress as a man and frequent the gambling halls in North Beach. When she died, she left a third of her estate to the City of San Francisco for various monuments and beautification projects. Coit Tower is probably the most prominent of these.