I reference staircasing fairly often in my posts, and as this is pretty much a term I made up on on the fly I thought I’d give a little background. In 2010 I was on Sunset Blvd waiting to go to a concert at The Roxy when I wandered into a bookstore down the street. I generally gravitate towards the travel section, and there I found a copy of Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. Uhm…cool! I knew it had to be mine.
Not only did this book seem like a really interesting and interactive way to experience Los Angeles, but I have a soft spot in my heart for walking and the idea that it brings a whole new level of accessibility to a city, allowing the walker to connect to his or her surroundings like never before. I studied this pretty extensively while writing my senior thesis and researching the transformation of Paris between 1853 and 1870 under Napoléon III and Baron von Haussmann, who completely renovated and reconstructed the then medieval and congested layout of the French capital. I concentrated my paper around a very compelling argument that the Parisians at the time took to the streets by foot as a means of discovering the new city from a pedestrian perspective–something that was hardly possible before this time. So, when I picked up Secret Stairs I was instantly intrigued, ready to tackle Los Angeles in this same way.
The book guides the walker up and down pedestrian staircases from Pasadena to the Pacific Palisades. These passages are now relatively forgotten by most people, though at one point they were major thoroughfares for the city’s inhabitants before cars became so prevalent. With Charles Flemming’s careful narration and descriptions, it really feels like walking through history on each of these walks. I highly recommend this book to Los Angelinos and visitors alike. You can follow the link in the first paragraph to find a copy on Amazon.