Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walk #35 : Temple Hill

Distance: 2 miles
Steps: 108
Difficulty: 2.5
"This is a most spriritual walk, a hillside stroll without too many stairs through an area once dotted with temples, monasteries, retreats, and church buildings. The English novelist Christopher Isherwood studied meditation here; the Indian spiritualist Krishnamurti lived here; and the Dominican sisters still bake a mean pumpkin bread here." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.
It's always great to have 'new recruits' on these walks and this one was special as two of my new friends and classmates came along. We hope they continue to participate as we explore Los Angeles. All three of us are enrolled in the UCLA Extension Translation/Interpretation Program (Spanish/English) and hope to become Certified Legal Interpreters in the near future. We will be halfway done with the program in a few weeks and have spent many Saturdays together (8 hours of class each day) and just had oral finals the day before so we have a bit in common. Without bragging (okay, a little..) I can say that we all did well on our finals so I guess that means that I have smart friends who like physical fitness too.
Ines is a native of Argentina and Enrique from Mexico. Bienvenidos al las caminatas Ines y Enrique!!
The Interpreters - (Enrique, Me, Ines)
We began our walk at the trendy 101 Coffee Shop on Franklin Avenue where I had a minor star sighting. I don't remember his name but he is the guy who plays the role of Anne Heche's husband (the uptight Dermatologist) on the HBO show 'Hung.' Later in the day I had a more major star sighting - I saw Tobey Maguire in line at a Silver Lake coffeehouse -Intelligentsia. This area of Hollywood is quite busy with the constant noise of the 101 Freeway across the street and Downtown Hollywood not too far off.
The recently renovated Hollywood Tower Aparment House

Capitol Records Building on the other side of the 101.

We turned on to Vine Street and into the Hollywood Dell neigborhood.

This walk is called 'Temple Hill' for the various religious/spiritual institutions found along the way. The first one we encountered was the Southern California home of the Vedanta Society. It's a 19th Century sect founded by the Indian Ramakrishna. The writer Christopher Isherwood was an adherent. It's still a monastery and meditation center and is open to the public.
The Vedanta Society, Hollywood.

We climbed and at a bend we encountered this - thing! It was a huge, garish Faux Chateau and we had a great laugh. Do they not know the word 'scale.'?
Le Faux Chateau
Next to the Chateau was this house which is an improvement.

This old Hollywood area was the home of many early movie stars as was nearby Beachwood Canyon which I wrote about on an earlier walk. Jeanette MacDonald, Hopalong Cassidy lived in the area.
Enrique, Charles, Ines.
Fountain at the Monastery Gardens Apartments. Charlie Chaplin lived here.

This walk contains only two stairways but was very interesting and rich in Hollywood lore and history. It was a while before the freeeway noise dissipated and we truly felt we were not in the middle of Los Angeles.

Forty-seven graceful, winding steps leading to Alcyona Drive.

This neighborhood also housed over a dozen Krotona sites. Krotona was one of three Eastern-influenced "Theosophical Society" colonies. Many of these buildings were built in a Moorish style known as 'Islamic Egyptian.'
A Krotona building, now converted into apartments.
Look carefull and you will see the Griffith Observatory.
You can see Downtown LA through the glass door and glass wall of this garage. I was on the street and shot it through the clear walls of the structure. Kind of strange.

The first of many interesting doors/gates on this walk.

Yes, Charlie Chaplin lived here too.

Enrique at the gate of the former Chaplin home.

The mailbox at the former Chaplin estate. A bit small don't you think?

Yet another Krotona house.

An incinerator door repurposed as a mailbox.

Behind this stone wall once stood a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary before someone plowed into it leaving this pile of rocks. This happened years ago and it seems the remains are now themselves a shrine. Just down the road was yet another former Krotona structure dating from 1912, now an apartment building. It warned against tresspassers but we just could not help ourselves. It retains the Krotona name but after the Theosophists moved out another Eastern spiritual leader, Jiddu Krishnamurti made it his base for a time.

Koi/turtle pond inside the Krotona building.

Last picture from the Krotona apartment building grounds.

A view of the famous Capitol Records building from above.

Charles without his customary red stair-walking t-shirt.
I can't do these walks alone. Charles has been there from the first walk until this one and I won't dare complete a walk without him. He wants equal bragging rights. Besides, I need someone to read to us when we come to an interesting spot and to make sure we have a place to eat. It was his bright idea for me to start this blog and got me all set up.
Our second and last staircase; 61 steps going down.

Right across the street from the top of the staircase is this large home which Barbara Stanwyck once called home.

At the bottom of the stairs it became more obvious that we were in Hollywood after all and the bustle and noise would soon return.

Typical Southern California apartment architecture except for the bars and the paint color choices.

To end this most spiritual of walks we finished at the Monastery of the Angels. This home of the cloistered Dominican Nuns in Hollywood is at the northern end of Gower! Most people have no idea this beautiful little oasis exists. The sisters support themselves in part by selling their famous pumpkin bread but they were not open for business as it was Sunday. I've heard the bread is worth the high price.
The Monastery of the Angels.

This is where you get your pumpkin bread

We found 'religion' in the form of breakfast at the 101 Coffee Shop after an interesting walk on a beautiful, crisp Southern California morning.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 17 stair walks.
Steps walked to date: 12,665.
Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. Such a cool, interesting neighborhood. Loved all the temples, the Monastery of the Angels, the missing Virgin Mary (where's the photo?). Another great walk. Thanks, Robert!

  2. My fiance and I did this walk on 3/9/12 and it was our first walk we ever did on the "Secret Stairs" book. We found that it's important to read along the book while walking because you miss things along the way otherwise. The most strenuous part was the climb on the hill on Vine St. at the begining but the rest was very easy. My favorite was finding the The Vedanta Society in a pocket where you'd never guess anything was there. We went inside and it felt and smelled religious (with the incense.) We couldn't find the Monastery at the end since we did forget all about it after our walk. Can't put a grade on this walk yet since this was our first but it was one definitely worth doing!

    Naomi S., Torrance, CA