Mt. Olympus

Once considered to mark the geographical center of the city.

Their new adventure takes place exactly one week after their last, with Chris, Linzi and the Titans climbing Mount Olympus. Despite their superior numbers and monumental strength, the Titans’ precarious position as they climb Mount Olympus proves to be a great tactical disadvantage…

Ok – ok, so maybe it wasn’t as epic as God of War III and there were no Titans, but San Francisco’s Mt. Olympus does have a pretty cool back story.

Triumph of Light statue on Mt. Olympus, 1927.

San Francisco maps from the early 1900s show a depiction of the Statue of Liberty on a hill above 17th Street, near Clayton Street. This rise is called Mount Olympus, and at the time, was considered the geographic center of San Francisco. Adolph Sutro—silver baron, philanthropist, and one-time mayor—owned the land. And, as he did on his other property, Sutro installed a statue.

Like Sutro’s other statuary, this was a Belgian copy of something he saw on his travels. The Triumph of Light depicted Lady Liberty victorious over Despotism. Many sources claim that the original Triumph of Light was inspiration for Statue of Liberty creator Frédéric Bartholdi.

As the years passed, the history of the statue and Sutro faded from people’s memories and its condition deteriorated. In 1938 the San Francisco Chronicle referred to it as the Mystery Monument. In 1954, the paper reported that the San Francisco Arts Commission declared the statue was “beyond repair and should be demolished in the near future.”

  • When Carol and her husband moved to Upper Terrace in 1968, the neighborhood was trying to buy the land surrounding the monument base to create an open space. Political forces blocked the plan, and now buildings obscure the view.
  • Some neighbors have reported seeing Wiccan ceremonies around the base and offerings of flowers and gifts.
  • At some point in the 1950s the statue was taken down and only the 30-foot base remained. What happened to the statue? Carol says no one knows.

Multiple excerpts from Susan Saperstein’s Sutro’s Triumph of Light Statue.

Triumph of Light Statue base, 2012.

What once was the place to go to get beautiful 360 degree views has now been transformed into a very small, mostly view-less park surrounded by privately owned houses. There’s a small walkway in front of the statue base that has a good view of eastern part of the city.

The Only View

My favorite part of the trip was actually the really cute stairway up from 17th street. It winds around the western exterior of the ‘mountain’ and you get really pretty views of the valley between Mt.Olympus and Mt. Sutro, as well as Golden Gate Park.

View of Golden Gate Park from Mt. Olympus.

I especially liked that the stairs were overflowing with flowers.

Once up the stairway, if you don’t go straight towards the statue base and instead continue right on Upper Terrance, there is a pretty view of the southern part of the city.

A view of southern SF from Upper Terrace.

From there, you can walk through this fun driveway to get to the statue base.

It doesn't look like it goes through, but it does.

All in all – even though it’s rather lame compared to it’s yesteryear self, I still recommend checking Mt. Olympus out. It doesn’t take much time to see everything there is to check out, it’s a good lazy Sunday activity -or- great when paired with another adventure (such as Kite Hill). Remember: definitely take the stairs from 17th street instead of driving up because you’ll miss the best part.

A big thanks to Allison for shedding light on Mt. Olympus’ rich history. Check out my flickr to see more pictures. If Mt. Olympus isn’t your thing, check out my collection of San Francisco parks to find one better suited for you.