Group stairwalk to ex-Nazi spy compound

Dave Ptach of Los Angeles Stairstreet Advocates and Grace Vergara of Secret Stairs meetup group and Women’s Fitness, did a joint stairwalk from Charles Flemings book “Secret Stairs.”  This walk, #42 Giant steps, is the hardest in the book and has a 512 step staircase.  I’ve done this walk before with my girlfriend and posted it on my blog Jan. 12, 2011.

Lili joined me on this walk, arriving at my house on schedule and we arrived at the meet up point twenty minutes early. Usually Lili runs late but today she was on time. This walk takes us to an area that was once occupied by a Nazi spy.  I will go into more history than I did when I first posted so continue reading.

512 step stairs

We climbed 512 step stairs, the longest known staircase in Los Angeles.  I thought I also heard from Dave Ptach that this staircase is the longest in the US.  After climbing the 512 steps, the group decided to go back down the steps and take another set of stairs, 312 steps, up to the road.  Once there was a contest where four men decided to put up $5000.00 to see who can run up the 512 steps two steps at a time without stopping.  No one won the bet.  These stairs are a killer and difficult to do one step at a time even with stopping to take a breather.    I have feeling Grace Vergara can do the steps without stopping and she might have, but I couldn’t tell for sure since she was in front of the group.

This area, known as Murphy Ranch, has the remains of a compound once occupied by a Nazi spy, Herr Schmidt, who was able to get Winona and Norman Stephens, an heir to a mining fortune,  to invest four million dollars to build this as a refuge to be used when Hitler invades America.  The day after World War II started, Stephens was discovered to be a Nazi spy and was arrested.  The buildings were turned into an artists’ colony in the 60’s and 70’s, but closed after the Mandeville fire in 1978. What remains is the shell of a generator, a water tower and a mass of steel that was once part of the power plant.  The shell of the generator is covered with graffiti and one can find trash, beer bottles, paint cans and aerosol paint cans. 

Lili, Marian, Grace

Dave Ptach and Noemi Morales goofing around

The place smelled of paint fumes when we walked inside.  A short distance up from the shell is a mass of steel that was the machine shed and garage.  You can read more about the history in the Charles Flemings’ book Secret stairs and at

I find it fascinating that this piece of history exists here in Pacific Palisades.  I wonder how many people hike this area without knowing its history.  Marian, from the stair walk, is very knowledgeable, having done research and hiked this area more than a dozen times.  She gave us a little history lesson.

Dave Ptach

Dave Ptach was going to go down some other steps that were made up of railroad ties. These stairs are not in the book Secret Stairs. I told him I would do those another time.  I was in no shape to tackle any more stairs.

You can view more pictures from my first walk to this area on my Jan. 12, 2011, Giant Steps, post.

This entry was posted in secret stairs of Los Angeles, stairwalks, walking in Los Angeles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Group stairwalk to ex-Nazi spy compound

  1. sue says:

    Karen u r soooo amazing! LOVE YOUR SHARING FOR THOSE THAT CAN’T WALK THE WALKS! Thanx and big hug! Sue D.

  2. Fridom Snowbird says:

    The Artist Colony (owned by Huntington Hartford) closed in 1965 due to financial concerns. It was costing over $100,000.00 a year to run it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s