A Saturday tour of Echo Park stairways with Charles Fleming

Last Saturday I managed to finally change out of my PJs in the afternoon and join fellow stair geeks, Echo Park area residents, and author of “Secret Stairs,” Charles Fleming, for an afternoon of exploring a few of Echo Park’s hidden stairways.

View from the top of the Clinton Stairs

My fascination with these stairways has slowly grown over the past few months, and has now officially become a slight obsession – it’s like treasure hunt, and one that not a lot of people know about (minus the occasional gang members and homeless people). It’s quite satisfying to learn about some of the history with the stairways and to conquer some of the extremely long and steep ones.

At the beginning of the hike, we met up at Stories Books in Echo Park. Charles’ once-a-month stairways tours are generally not listed in his book, which he says is purposeful. Everyone with the book will be able to take those tours on their own, he told us, so he likes to change things up a bit.

Our tour took us down to Echo Park Lake and hiked up, I think, the Clinton Stairway. We then bravely crossed Alvarado and wound our way through streets and stairways around the Dream Center area (a tip for dog owners: we walked by a few houses with some pretty rambunctious pups).

Next up: crossing over the 101 Freeway and onto Temple Street, and back under the freeway through a tunnel I didn’t even know existed (Laveta Terrace, I believe). We then headed back to the Stories Cafe patio for some wine and cheese. The whole walk took about an hour and a half, and two days later, boy, am I sore! But it was worth it, and with a difficulty of three out of five it actually wasn’t that bad.

Charles starting walking stairways to heal chronic back pain

After the tour, Charles spoke about how some of his stairway tours can really bring awareness to the cleanup and repair that needs to be done. Nearly every staircase was litter with broken glass, beer bottle caps, and trash – a site we’ve all gotten way too used to. It’s important for Charles and his tours that the Council Districts take an active role in participating in the cleanup and maintenance of the stairways for our safety and enjoyment.

This brings to mind when, last May, residents teamed up and cleaned the Lucretia Stairway in Echo Park – removing trash and graffiti that had plagued the stairway. They also got Northeast Division officers to patrol the street and keep an eye on things, so the effort was deemed successful.

Anyone having trouble with their public staircase should find out when the next community meeting is, for instance CD1 and CD13 reps, along with Northeast and Rampart Division officers, attend the monthly Echo Park Improvement Association town hall meetings. It’s important that the city knows about any public stairways that are in disrepair and/or need a cleanup, a message that Charles Fleming is working hard to spread.

If you’d like to participate in one of Charles’ walking tours of Los Angeles stairways, check back here or visit the Secret Stairs website. And, of course, buy the book at Stories!

We’ve also got a great map of Echo Park stairways, which you should check that out here.

UPDATE:

Tours are once a month, email misterfleming@aol.com to get on the mailing list!

There are more and more stairways groups popping up in my research. I’ve written about the Big Parade before, which is a free two-day, 35 mile walk throughout Los Angeles led by Bob Inman (author of “A Guide to the Stairways of Los Angeles”) and occurs just once a year in the spring/early summer. He also leads an occasional Stairways and Beer tour in Eagle Rock.

Los Angeles Stairstreet Advocates is a great organization on Facebook that also holds once-a-month walks around the Echo Park/Silver Lake area.

The more we utilize these public spaces, the easier it will be to keep them safe and clean!

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