Point Dume

One of the most beautiful coastlines in Los Angeles County is Point Dume Nature Reserve.   stairs up Since you need to take the stairs to get to the tide pools and the Nature Preserve, I included this in my stairwalking blog. Located just 20 minutes northwest of Malibu, it is my favorite beach in Los Angeles county. I took stairs down 2my niece here and we spent the day exploring the tide pools and hanging out. The tide pools are home to sub-tidal marine life including sea stars, sea urchins, mussels and crabs.

Point DuneFrom the main beach you go to all the way to the end of the cul-de- sac and up some stairs that lead to a trail. There are many trails, some lead to the road where there are huge mansions, another leads to the very top of the rock known as Point Dume, and then there is the trail that leads to the stairs going down to the cove where the tide pools are. tide pool 2This isolated beach cannot be seen from the main beach or the parking lot and was clothing optional back in the sixties and seventies.

Movies, commercials, and TV shows are filmed here, including scenes from “Planet of the Apes” and “Modern Family.” The pilot episode of “I Dream of Jeannie” was also filmed here. It was the deserted tropical island where major Tony finds the bottle and opens it releasing Jeannie.  I once attended a wedding here and the couple said their vows as the sun umbrellawas setting behind them.

Point Dume was originally the site of the Chumash Indians. They foraged for fish and food in the tide pools. The top of the rock, Point Dume, was used for communication between the different villages in Ventura County, Santa Barbara and Malibu.  Today you can see people rock 2climbing the face of the rock. It’s pretty easy from what I hear, at least as easy asrock rock climbing can get. The land was was acquired by the State of California in 1979 and designated a Natural Preserve in 1992. This is also one of the few land spots where you can view the migrating gray whales from February to April.

treeIf you are looking for a beautiful beach that doesn’t have the crowds like Santa Monica or Venice Beach, then this is the place.tide pool 1

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Bob Inmans walk in Pasadena

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Bob Inman

A few friends and I did a walk with Robert Inman. He has finally finished his book  “Finding Los Angeles by Foot: Stairstreet, bridge, pathway and lane” after working on it for two years.

stairs3stairs2

All of his walks cover several miles, anywhere from five to fifteen miles. He covers a lot of ground and you get to see a lot.  His pace is moderate and he stops along the way pointing out things of  interest.  He knows a lot about the history of the area and pending development plans that will affect the area.

house2

My friends and I took the metro train and met everyone at Busters in south Pasadena, across from metro station.  It was warm weather and a perfect day for a walk. First thing I noticed was a sign inside Busters that said we can’t take your order if you are house1on your cell phone. I love that. I am so glad they put the sign on the counter, nothing more irritating than someone who holds up the line because they are on their phone.

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We started down a wide street with huge craftsman style homes and big yards. I haven’t been to most of the streets Bob took us on and was truly enjoying seeing all the beautiful work of the craftsman style homes.  bridge up

bridgebridge3

We walked under the Colorado street bridge which I have always admired and went through some nature areas with green grass and Arlington Gardens with its many sitting areas and a labyrinth made up of rocks.sitting areagarden

Bob took us to an area where the homes on both sides of the street are owned by the State of California. A freeway was proposed to cut through that area and the homes would be removed. Fortunately itlabyrth was challenged and the project won’t happen for a while if it does happen at all.

Someone in the group works at the Headquarters of the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Red Cross and he opened the gate to the driveway so we can go walk in and see the house. We couldn’t go inside but we could walk the grounds and peek inside.  The house was

Red Cross Headquarters

Red Cross Headquarters

formerly owned by the Cravens who made their fortune in tobacco and can be rented out for weddings and other events. It has also been used in TV shows and films such as Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, Ghost Whisperer, Being There and Traffic…to name a few.

trailstairs up

It took us a while to get back home on the metro.  After going one or two stops, we had to get off and board a bus to take us to trainanother stop due to someone getting hit and killed by the train. So very sad but I was impressed about how organized the metro is and how quickly emergency personnel responds to accidents.

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Griffith Park hike to Obesrvatory

My friends Lili, Hedy and I joined the Valencia hiking group with a hike to the Griffith Park Observatory.  The hike Frank Lloyd Wright houseoriginally was going to include stairs but was changed and we ended up going a different route. We did however pass by the Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis house.  I’ve been by this house may times, but this time I was able to go inside the front gate.  The gate was open and workers were Frank Lloyd Wright house 1doing some work on the house. I saw them go inside the house and went up to the front door and knocked. I wanted to ask if we could go inside the house but no one answered.  I spent a few minutes snapping some photos until someone finally came out and said we had to leave. At least observatoryI got shots that I couldn’t get before.

A few houses down is a house known as the whimsical house. This house was the inspiration for the design of the Tam O’Shanter restaurant in Los Feliz.  Behind this house is another house, which was hard to see because of the trees, and it was where a doctor lived with his whimsical housetwo children and his wife. The doctor shot his wife and daughter, but the wife was able to escape and call police. By the time the police had arrived, the doctor had shot himself.  It was difficult to get a buyer for the house but a couple finally did buy it. However, they never changed it and left it the way it was, even with the unwrapped Christmas presents and wrapping paper on the table.  The house even had mold all over the floor. When this couple died and left the house to the son, the son left the house viewin the same shape his parents did.  He didn’t live there but he would come sometimes in the evenings to visit.  Who knows why, but maybe he was contacting the deceased.  The neighbors finally had enough of the shoddy condition the house was in and forced the son to fix up housesthe house, which he did.

Our next stop was the Observatory. Here you can take in great views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Century City and surrounding areas.  Lili likes to take many pictures and we ended up way behind the group. However, we lilimanaged to catch up to them. Lili commented that she likes to hike with seniors because they are easy to catch up to. Everyone on the hike was a senior citizen except for Lili, Lili’s friend and me.

Lili likes to laugh a lot and is always in a great joyful mood, even if she is going through tough times and difficult situations. She is also known as the fashionista of hiking and was wearing red. She even had red sunglasses and a red Lili and carssockscamera to match her clothes.  We had a good laugh at her outfit though because she had on one white sock and one yellow sock. I asked her if she got dressed in the dark.

After the hike, Hedy and I joined the rest of the group for lunch at Trails restaurant.  What a way to top of a perfect hike. The Trailsweather was beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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Great LA Walk 2013

Echo Park

Echo Park

On Saturday, November 3rd, my friends and I joined about 300 people for the Great LA Walk Michael2013.  It was a 15 mile walk starting at Echo Park Lake and ending at Santa Monica, California.  Michael Schneider, the organizer of this event, did a great job of providing a map and listing LA iconic spots.  It also gave a mile by mile breakdown so you would know how many miles you have walked. He gave a cineramalittle talk at the beginning saying most people just drive by these places but never really notice them. True.  I kept my eye open for interesting things to photograph, things that people might not have noticed. He also suggested restaurants to eat lunch and said everyone can rejoin group at 1:45 at the Beverly Hills sign. guitars

bldg 2My friends and I started out in the middle of the group. We stopped for a bathroom break and my friend ordered coffee to go. When we left I could no longer see the group ahead of us.  standard hotel

Art on hotel wall

Art on hotel wall

We knew we could always catch up with them after lunch at the Beverly Hills sign.  My friends suggested eating at Evo Kitchen, a family owned restaurant which serves healthy food and supports local farmers. There are items on the menu for everyone–meat lovers, gluten free, vegans and vegetarians. The food is delicious but it bldg 3took awhile to get our food and that put us even further behind the group.

We continued our walk to Hollywood and the Sunset strip where iconic places such as the Laugh Factory, Whiskey a Go Go, and the Comedy Store are located.

Laugh Factory

Laugh Factory

Whiskey a Go Go opened in 1964 and many of the greatest rock-n- roll band played there–The Doors,  Led Zeppelin,  and Janis Joplin.

Whiskey A Go Go

Whiskey A Go Go

Comedy Store

Comedy Store

The Comedy Store is where many young comedians got their start—Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno, Jim Carey, Chris Rock, to name a few.

Chateau Marmont Hotel

Chateau Marmont Hotel

Next up was Chateau Marmont Hotel. Many celebrities stay there and it is the place where comedian and actor John Belushi died of overdose. mannicanAfter leaving Sunset  Strip we came to Beverly Hills. We cut down Rexford Street and walked past the mansions and carmulti million dollar homes to Santa Monica Blvd and the heart of Beverly Hills.  LA’s most expensive stores are located here. Tiffany’s jewelry store, Blvgari, Versace, Girgio Armani…

As we passed the Ice Cream Lab someone gave us a sample of chocolate chip ice cream. I told my friend “that’s it, I have to get some.”  We did and it was delicious.

Ice Cream Lab

Ice Cream Lab

They make their ice cream right in front of you by combining the ingredients and liquid and shooting  nitrous oxide in it causing the liquid to freeze. It’s completely natural and organic. Best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Sugarfina

Sugarfina

Sugarfina

Next we stopped in Sugarfina and it happened to be their first day in business. This candy store is elegant and classy. Their candy is beautifully displayed and it comes in blue boxes that remind me of Tiffany’s jewelry store boxes. We were given some samples and I know I could easily get addicted to this.

Rosie O'Neill

Rosie O’Neill

I met the gracious and delightful co-owner Rosie O’Neill.  I candy 1think she will do very well.

A few doors down from there is the shoe store Charlotte Olympia.  They’ve been open for five months and have the most unusual and unique shoes that it is worth mentioning here.  pink shoeVery classy inside and a doorman opens the door for you.   shoe 1

pierferris wheelWhen we got to the edge of Beverly Hills we decided to take the bus the rest of the 2.7 miles so we could catch the sunset at Santa Monica. When we arrived we saw the group. I got my sunset photos and then we went to eat at Tinga, which serves Mexican fusion food. I enjoyed my food which I was able to order off the happy hour menu.  The  restaurant had a room reserved for all the walkers. After that we took the bus to the metro stop so we could catch train to where our cars were parked at North Hollywood metro.  birds in sunsetsunset aIt was a long day, 14 hours, but worth it. We did all this by taking bus and subway. Five dollars got us an all day pass for the bus and subway. Quite an adventure discovering new places.

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Glassel Park North with Hidden Stairs

I did a walk with the Hidden stairs meetup group. We did strairwalk #3, Glassell Park North from the book “Secret Stairs” by Charles Fleming. Image My friend and organizer, David, took us on a couple of stairs that are not in the book. The walk started at 4:15 PM and knowing that it would be dark by the time we went to the stairs that were not included in the book, I asked David if he could do those stairs first. He said no. I would have liked to have taken pictures of them but it was too dark.

The first set of stairs were wooden. Not too many stairs but the pathway after the stairs and the street was pretty steep. It was a workout and the hardest part. After that it wasn’t too bad. It flattened out and there was some downhill.

Glassell Park is part of Eagle Rock and has winding streets with great views. I saw a lot of nice houses with a variety of architectural styles.  It is also home to housemany artists, one of whom probably painted the murals on the second set of stairs we walked. I don’t know who painted those and the murals were not there at the time Charles Fleming wrote his book. The walk was just under two hours and David did a good job of keeping the group together. It was a nice evening and a great way to get some exercise.

Image mural 2

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Exploring Los Angeles’ forgotten stairways to the stars

Here is an article written by Zeb Soanes of Los Angeles for BBC News.  I have reposted it here.  Check out the vintage photos too.  Enjoy.

Exploring Los Angeles’ forgotten stairways to the stars

By Zeb Soanes Los Angeles

Houses in Silverlake

From the air, the hills of Silver Lake, peppered with bungalows, must look like a leafy game of Snakes and Ladders. Roads insinuate their way up and around the mountain slopes and connecting them all from the lowest to the highest are dozens of vertiginous stone staircases. These are the historic Los Angeles Stairs, hidden and unknown to most of the city’s residents and visitors.

I was about to take a hike between them with Charles Fleming, an LA Times editor who has spent years researching and mapping the stairways, originally as a form of convenient local exercise.

For him they are civic treasures that lead the curious through unfamiliar neighbourhoods and their architectural treasures: historic homes where famous actors lived, celebrated screenplays were written and, as we were to discover, the stairs themselves have earned their place in cinema history as the location for an Oscar-winning comedy.

The "music box steps", LA, and Laurel and Hardy in Hats Off

LA hasn’t always been a city of cars, it once had one of the most effective public transport systems in the United States. In the 1920s, as the city expanded, developers naturally wanted to build up into the hills. Few people could afford cars so the city planners built long stone staircases to connect the pedestrian residents of the lofty hillside homes to the tram network below.

We began our walk early one morning and I asked Charles why such an efficient and healthy public transport system disappeared. He explained that the story was told very well in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where the oil, automobile and tyre companies conspired to replace the trolley network with freeways for buses and automobiles. The busy stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard we were walking along had once been a major tramway with another, Sunset Boulevard, crossing overhead

Overhead tram in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Photo courtesy: Automobile Club of Southern California Archives

We turned into a dusty alleyway. By the 1970s and 80s the area had become rundown – the staircases weren’t maintained and became hidden spaces for criminal activity. Many were closed off and fell into disrepair.

On a fence, Charles pointed out some graffiti. “That’s the first sign of trouble,” he warned, explaining it was the tag symbol for a local gang. “The second is when you see a line struck through it by a rival gang, that means there is a turf war for control of the area.”

Sure enough, the first stairway we came to had been locked, much to Charles’s annoyance. The stairs are public byways, paid for and maintained by taxpayers’ money and he believes they should be kept open.

Walt Disney's former home on Lyric Avenue, Silverl Lake Walt Disney worked on early Mickey Mouse cartoons at his Silver Lake home

The film studios were the first to develop the area, building compact bungalows to house their actors and technicians. Both Chaplin and Disney lived here.

Movie carpenters would build sets during the week and homes at the weekend. Charles said this accounted for the local architectural hotchpotch that is often ridiculed. A Moorish castle next to a Spanish villa, next to a Tudor mansion – the carpenters were inspired by whatever they had been building on the studio backlots that week.

Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box

Our second staircase was thankfully unobstructed. Here, in 1932, Laurel and Hardy tried and failed to move a piano to the top in The Music Box. The film won an Academy Award. I’d seen it over and again as a child and remembered it fondly.

There were now buildings either side but it was still quite recognisable. For such a historic landmark it was still remarkably unkempt, its history simply marked by a defaced granite plaque inset into one of the lower steps.

Looking down The Music Box steps Looking down from the top of The Music Box steps

This wasn’t the only staircase to feature in the movies. In An Ache in Every Stake, filmed in 1941, two miles to the north-east, The Three Stooges tried to deliver a block of ice to a house at the top of 147 steps and each time they reached the summit the block had melted to an ice cube. “Unlike The Music Box stairs,” Charles informed me, “the area around that staircase is pretty much unchanged.”

We climbed another flight of steps that are a street in themselves with the houses on either side only accessible from the stairs. From the top we had a clear view of the Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign.

Charles has found more than 500 staircases across the city but only half are accessible. I asked about the longest: “That’s Murphy’s Ranch in Pacific Palisades,” he said. “It is the only one that was originally private. It has 511 steps and was built by a group of Nazi sympathisers.”

Gate to Murphy's Ranch Murphy’s Ranch as it is today

In the 1930s – according to his own paper, the LA Times – the owners of the ranch, Winona and Norman Stephens, fell under the spell of the mysterious Herr Schmidt, who claimed to have supernatural powers. He persuaded them to spend $4m to build a self-sustaining Nazi utopia where a small and committed band of followers would wait until Germany won the war and then emerge victorious to establish the Third Reich in America.

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Sign marks Music Box steps
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The compound was impressive with its own power station, water tanks and an irrigation system built into the terraced hillside to water the crops and trees that would sustain the Nazi faithful.

It naturally aroused the concern of the US authorities and was raided by federal agents in 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Schmidt was arrested as a spy and the land was eventually handed over to the people of Los Angeles as a public park.

The ruins of that compound are now covered in graffiti and I asked Charles if locals are concerned with the history of their city. “No”, he said. “Most of them have a private experience of life – ‘I ride in my car, I sit in my office, I live in my house’.

“They are isolated from the larger public space because they haven’t been encouraged to be interested. When you give them permission to look, they are surprised by what has always been just around the corner from them.”

I wondered how much the temporary nature and rapid turnover of the movie business had contributed to this throwaway attitude to the city’s heritage.

“I think that has something to do with it,” he said. “People weren’t aware that they had a history to destroy. If there seemed a better way of doing something they would tear down what they had and build something new.”

Covent Garden Market and St Pancras Station Covent Garden Market (here in 1925) and St Pancras Station (here in 1905) were both saved from demolition

I noted that London had suffered a similar disregard for many of its architectural landmarks after the war. Covent Garden Market and the gothic magnificence of St Pancras Station were earmarked for demolition and only saved by a small band of passionate protestors.

There is now a proposal to dredge up the fragments of the grand doric arch that greeted visitors to Euston Station from its watery grave on the bed of the River Lea in the East End of London.

Euston's former entrance arch, demolished in the 1960s

But the mere fact Charles and I were taking this walk, like the many devotees of his book and tours signals hope for LA’s hidden heritage.

Zeb Soanes (l) and Charles Fleming Zeb (left) and Charles after their walk

Online blogs and organisations such as the LA Conservancy are encouraging locals and visitors to learn more about the history beneath their feet and, whilst for decades LA hasn’t had a reputation as a walking city, great strides are being taken to restore an efficient public transport system to reconnect the sprawling city.

The route of the former Pacific Electric trolley service, closed in 1953, is being relaid with a pristine light railway that will once more take downtown dwellers all the way to the beach, leaving their cars at home.

Everything comes full circle, as indeed had we. We had been walking an hour but our chat made it feel a brisk 20 minutes. We were back where we started at the bottom of the hill, just like Laurel and Hardy’s battered piano.

 

 

 

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Sheats-Goldstein home tour

I had the rare opportunity to tour the Sheats-Goldstein residence in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles.  There were many steps andcement stairs steos downstairs leading to the lush jungle below the house that it deserved to be included in my stairwalking blog. I also wanted to share the amazing beauty and greenery that surrounds this house.arch

This glass house, which is surrounded by a lush jungle below, has been featured in movies such as “The Big Lebowski” “Charlies Angels Full Throttle” and music videos including Snoop Dogg’s “Lets Get Blown.”

man at point

Sculpture of architect John Lautner

The home sculpturewas the site for third installment of French artist Xavier Veilhan Architectones project in Los Angeles.  Xavier Veilhan studio and Galerie Perrotin organizedliving room the show and  local architect Francois Perrin was the curator.  It is where art meets architecture. pool Some of the art pieces Xavier installed included an iron sculpture located in the lavish gardens and cords stretched in space over the swimming pool. man on deckXavier Veilhan was struck by the beauty of the home and how it interacts with nature.  A green aluminum sculpture of architect John Lautner was installed on the end of the triangular shaped master bedroom that juts out offering a panoramic view of Los Angeles.

The home was built by architect John Lautner in 1963. Lautner studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and this home is considered a masterpiece.  In 1972 dining roomJames Goldstein purchased the home and commissioned John Lautner blue triangleto do remodeling.  moss stepsJames is constantly adding and having some kind of work done on the home and property.   I was told it is a never ending project. tennis court

The house is not noticeable from the street or from the driveway. I arrived and had valet park my car.  Then I walked down the long driveway with flourishing plants on either side.

view from tennis court

view from tennis court

It reminded me of Costa Rica. Still not able to see the house trumpet treeI continued walking down the long curved driveway until I came to the garage. koi fish 2 The entrance to the

Walkway over koi pond

Walkway over koi pond

house is next to the garage and you walk down a little walk way that goes over a pond filled with koi fish and turtles and leads to the front door.

I was grateful to be able to tour this magnificent home lounge chairsand I look forward to seeing other homes designed by John Lautner and exhibits by Xavier Veilhan.

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