If I asked you where Mt. Olympus was, would you ever guess San Francisco? Given that, would you ever be able to find it?
Triumph of Light on Mt. OlympusThis is a snapshot of a part of San Francisco that doesn’t exist anymore. Stunning isn’t it? Many of the city’s stairways lead up to incredible views, but the stairs up to our own Mt. Olympus put one in the middle of a suburban-seeming cul de sac, where the view is mostly blocked by on all sides by condos.

And all that remains of the “Triumph” of Mt. Olympus is its pedestal. As if to cover up this egregious act, trees circumscribe the entire hilltop perch.

mt. olympus base

At one time the statue, gifted by Adolf Sutro, marked the center of the city. If you had the audacity to scale its hill, you were rewarded with the striking drama of the urban panorama undulating around hills (we have over 50), green swaths of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, and the proud red bridge pointing to the mountains beyond.

view from mt. olympus

The urban landscape is mutable, even incapable of remaining the same. But in the name of change old theaters are torn down or turned into gyms. Ridiculous towers of glass, modeled after air filters, spring up with freeway views and plenty of parking. We may wake up one day to find that, yes, they did actually pave over paradise and put up a parking lot.

Ok, sorry about that last one. But Joni’s right, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Change can be positive, but I think it’s important to preserve SF’s peculiar metropolitan-meets-natural beauty. Because once the hills are topped with homes and the waterfront stacked with towers, all we’ll have left to remind us of how beautiful this city once was are the photographs.

 

3 Responses to Ascending Mt. Olympus

  1. Mel says:

    Does anyone have any idea what became of the statue itself? Does it still exist anywhere? If not, is there a replica anywhere ? I’m writing a book on this subject and I’d like the information if anyone knows anything.

    Thanks!

  2. tim says:

    my dad grew up on upper terrace in the 1920′s thru the 1980′s and told me about mt olympus, the geographical center of the City. He told me the statue was vandalized by kids and taken away never to be seen again. Pity. The condos destroyed the great views. Our planning department never should have approved them. Love the old stories he use to tell me of the neighborhood. He use to light the gas lamps in the neighborhood and also told of the rags, bottles, sacks, cart that used to come up the street. Our family home, which my grandfather built, was the first on the block. When your books done would love to get a copy.my dad grew up on upper terrace in the 1920′s thru the 1980′s and told me about mt olympus, the geographical center of the City. He told me the statue was vandalized by kids and taken away never to be seen again. Pity. The condos destroyed the great views. Our planning department never should have approved them. Love the old stories he use to tell me of the neighborhood. He use to light the gas lamps in the neighborhood and also told of the rags, bottles, sacks, cart that used to come up the street. Our family home, which my grandfather built, was the first on the block. When your books done would love to get a copy.

  3. Andrew says:

    I could tell you that the statue was still intact in 1955, but shortly thereafter, only the base remained. Also, it erroneously shows up on some of my old maps of the city as “Statue of Liberty” (but it was indeed called Triumph of Light, donated by Alfred Sutro as the center to the “Sutro Forest”).

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