When people think of San Francisco landmarks immediately start popping into mind. Icons like The Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Ghiradelli Square, Alcatraz, and Clam Chowder have all become ambassadors of the city. But there is one landmark that has eluded many visitors to the City by the Bay.

“San Francisco photographer shits out another bridge photo” -The Onion

The Golden Gate Bridge stands 746 feet above the water and was, at the time of its construction, the tallest suspension bridge in the world. The Transamerica Pyramid stands at 850 feet tall, making it the tallest building in all of San Francisco. But this behemoth is not only taller than both of these icons, at a staggering 977 feet tall, it is also built on one of the city’s tallest hills, at an elevation of 834 feet in the air. What is this mighty, yet esoteric landmark? It is the Sutro Tower!

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Yes indeed, the Sutro Tower is the tallest landmark in San Francisco, quite a feat considering the competition. Back when it was built, more people got their television over-the-air than from cable or satellite, but reception was tricky in San Francisco. The city is tremendously hilly, which makes the near line-of-sight transmission that radio signals depend on difficult to achieve. Building the tower, not just incredibly tall, but on top of one of the highest hills in the city, means that it can be seen (and heard, and watched) throughout most of the city. This is also what makes it one of my favorite landmarks. Fisherman’s wharf is overcrowded with tourists and the Golden Gate is a bridge to nowhere, AKA Marin (and you have to pay a toll to get back in) but you can see Sutro Tower from just about anywhere. I still remember the first time i noticed it, plodding though the tourist-trap of Haight St. when I looked up, the fog parted and revealed the orange and white striped giant, reaching up through the clouds. I didn’t even see the top of the tower until my second trip, that’s how huge this thing is.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about a real San Francisco giant. Please enjoy the gallery below.