The staircases lace the hillsides of certain L.A. neighborhoods, and are historical reminders of a time when this was not a city of cars. City planners and developers installed them as direct routes for pedestrians—housewives and children particularly—to get down the hills to school, the supermarket, and transit lines. The city at that time was well served by trolleys, streetcars, buses, and light-rail systems. The staircases were clustered around steep hillside communities near these transit lines, especially steep-streeted communities that developed in the 1920s. Staircases abound in Silver Lake, Echo Park, Mt. Washington, and El Sereno, and the elevated areas of Highland Park, Hollywood, and Santa Monica, and can be found as far from downtown L.A. as Pasadena, Pacific Palisades and Avalon, on Catalina Island.
The staircase-to-trolley system was so much a part of the landscape that developers in some areas built houses that had no other access to the outside world. These “walk-streets,” guides to which you will find on this website, were set on hillsides without driveways or garages. Everything going in and out had to employ the public staircase running, usually, across the front of the house. The trolleys and streetcars are gone, but the staircases remain. Many of them are forgotten paths, neglected and unused. Many of them are also direct routes into fascinating Los Angeles neighborhoods that many Angelinos have never even seen. So, come along.
Pick a staircase and start walking.