A look inside the ‘secret’ crown jewel of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid

By Douglas Zimmerman, SFGATE

On a recent helicopter ride above downtown San Francisco, photographer Ryan Fitzsimons discovered the top of the Transamerica Pyramid is made out of glass.

Fitzsimons clicked several images of the top of the tower and shared them on his Instagram page and with SFGATE. “I thought it would make a cool image and a good story, because I think most people are unaware,” he explained.

A 32-pane, cathedral-style glass top adorning the Transamerica Pyramid is commonly known as the building’s “crown jewel.” Inside the room is a 6,000-watt beacon “jewel” light. On special occasions, it is lit and viewable around the Bay Area. The crown jewel is the highest room on the 853-foot-tall Transamerica Pyramid, completed in 1972.

To get to the crown jewel is not an easy journey. After taking an elevator to the panoramic-view 48th floor (which is a boardroom that can be rented out by building tenants), you then have to ascend an additional 212-foot spire to get to the top of the building. First, you climb a tall staircase with steep steps inside the middle of the hollow metal structure. At the top of the stairs, there are two more steel ladders to climb to get to the crown jewel room.

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The 48th floor and crown jewel have never been open to the public. However, in 2008, CBS San Francisco was given access and was able to show the journey to the tip of the pyramid:

As for Fitzsimons, he was excited about discovering and sharing his photos of San Francisco’s crown jewel with everyone else.

Transamerica Pyramid in photos: Once controversial structure is now beloved

“I aim to capture a moment, but I also really hope to create images that are iconic, but from new angles,” he said. “It’s just such an iconic S.F. building that it makes for a great photo.”


Online Photo Editor Douglas Zimmerman oversees SFGATE’s Instagram and covers the Bay Area soccer scene on SFGATE’s Beautiful Blog. View his latest stories and send him news tips at dzimmerman@sfgate.com.

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