Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, January 10, 2011

Walk #11: Downtown Los Angeles

Distance: 3 miles
Steps: 1,021
Difficulty: 5
"This is a fine urban walk through the very heart of the city, a massive hike that employs old staircases, new staircases, private staircases, and even circular staircases. Along the way are the city's only funicular railway, some ot its finest public buildings, and some amusing 'pedway' overpasses."
From left: Ines, Enrique, Jessica, Leo, Willie, Charles with the Angel's Flight funicular car in the background.

Although this walk contained 1,021 steps I did not really feel them as I have on some previous walks. They were spread out, numerous, and not too strenuous. Not only was the setting unique but also the types of stairways (traditional, circular, escalators) employed. It was a beautiful, clear, and sunny Sunday morning on which to explore deserted Downtown LA. As these walks are centered around stairways many key historic places (Little Tokyo, Olvera Street, City Hall) were not included but it was still an invigorating trip and makes me want to spend more time there in the future and explore in depth.
We also had a new walker joining us - Jessica. She is a fellow student in the UCLA Interpretaion/Translation program and also a fellow UCLA Alumni. We began our walk with a cup of coffee at Grand Central Public Market. It is great place from which to practice people-watching and to eat from diverse cuisines and shop for produce. The Market is conveniently located across the street from Angel's Flight. Built in 1901, this funicular railway takes you from street level to the top of Bunker Hill - for 25 cents! It ran for 68 years, dismantled and then reopened 27 years later until a fatality in 2001 caused its closure. I am glad to report that it is once again functioning.

While taking the funicular up the steep Bunker Hill was tempting, we decided to hoof it up 121 steps. At the top of the staircase is a wonderful green space with benches from which to take in the views. Remember the movie "500 Days of Summer"? Several scenes were filmed there. We could have continued up the stairs to California Plaza at the top but instead crossed Olive and 85 stairs later we reached the Plaza.

The park at the top of the stairs.

These steps led us to the Water Garden at the Cal Plaza complex.

Sometimes the book can be a bit confusing and after our first 'incident' Charles was relieved of his duties and I recruited Ines to be our walk guide as I always take the pictures and can't possibly do it all. She did a great job given the sometimes confusing details. I was glad to give Charles a break after 30 walks as guide. He was free to take in the sights and enjoy himself but is returning on the next one.

At the Water Garden we found very few people but we did see some odd ducks; literally.

The Odd Ducks.

We then crossed Grand Avenue and in the courtyard was an old haunt long since renamed. My first job after graduating from college was in Downtown and we used to frequent the bar/restaurant called 'Stepps' for Happy Hour (and sometimes during lunch) and it was quite a scene back then. I ran into many people I knew at that place.

Nick & Stef's - site of the former Stepps!

21 steps later we found ourselves on Hope Street in front of the famous 333 S. Hope Street building. When I first moved to LA in the 70s I remember it as the headquarters of Crocker Bank with their logo on the top. Then the logo was Security Pacific, then BP, and now it's Bank of America. Did I miss any? We turned left and headed downhill.

A short walk took us to the top of the BunkerHill steps. At the top we had a star sighting - Woody Allen of all people. I only saw the back of a man wearing a bucket hat but Charles said he looked like Woody Allen and it was later confirmed by Willie (via Perez Hilton).

Willie and Jessica.
The Los Angeles Central Library as seen from the top of the Bunker Hill steps.

At the bottom of the steps is the magnificent Los Angeles Central Library, dating to1926. In the mid 80s the structure was heavily damaged as a result of a horrible arson attack. Thankfully, it has been restored and much of its former glory remains. Unfortunately, the building was closed so we had to admire it from the outside.

The 3 Amigos - Leo, Charles, and Willie.

The Interpreters: Ines, Enrique, Me, Jessica.

The fountain at the entrance to the Library.

The Library Tower with the Library in the foreground.

There is a stairway on the side of the Library which we were to descend but it was closed so we had to take a short detour which took us past the Standard Hotel. Once an office building, it has been converted into a hip boutique hotel with an all-yellow restaurant downstairs and a rooftop bar/lounge with views to kill for!

Ground floor outdoor seating at the Standard.
I found the 41 step staircase we missed due to closure (pictured above) and we continued.

I remember when it was called ARCO Plaza - it's now City National Plaza.
At City National Plaza we accessed our next staircase - in this case we had the choice of stairs or escalators. It climbs 42 steps over to the 5th Street overpass that lands you at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel complex. I remember when it opened in the late 70s/early 80s and it was so space age. I think the interior is now very dated but it is still an LA landmark.

The Westin Bonaventure.

NO COMMENT. Let's just say that some people are really territorial in the kitchen!

Figueroa Street as seen from the 2nd overpass.

At Figueroa and 4th is the Marriott Hotel and just across from there is the Downtown location of UCLA Extension. That is where I spent 10 full Saturdays last quarter and where I will spend 10 more this quarter before moving back to the UCLA main campus for my final quarter in the Spring.
We entered the Hotel and took another escalator in order to access yet another overpass that would lead us to the World Trade Center building.

We walked inside the World Trade Center builiding and up another escalator where we used an escalator to take us over a different overpass which lead us back to the Westin Bonaventure.

Inside the hotel we walked down 3 flights of circular stairs and then crossed the hotel to go back up 3 flights which would lead us to - an overpass!!

Charles crossing the overpass leading to the Ketchum YMCA.

We continued past Bank of America Center on Hope Street and headed North towards the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The Dorothy Chanlder Familiar on the left - where the Oscars were held every 2 years until they moved permanently to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

At the Walt Disney Concert Hall we climbed a short stairway leading to gardens I did know existed. It was real treat to find this urban oasis right next to an architectural wonder. The Frank Gehry-designed complex is clad in stainless steel and winds into countless shapes. As you walk around it you see its many different facades.

"A Rose for Lilly" sculptured covered in blue and white broken Delftware pieces.

We exited the complex by climbing down 69 stairs to reach Grand Avenue.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Los Angeles City Hall.
At 2nd street near Grand we climbed 24 steps to reach a walkway which would take us back to the Water Garden at California Plaza.

The man in the mirror is me.

Once at the top of Angel's Flight we had to choose between taking the stairs back down to our starting point or paying a quarter to take the funicular down. The choice was easy. We paid our fare and rode the historic little car down Bunker Hill to the end of our Downtown Adventure.

On our way down the hill to lunch!
After a long walk we were glad to be near food and what better place to eat at than the iconic Grand Central Market?
Produce stand at the Market.
I was really glad to have had this urban walk in the book. It was a welcome departure from our more neighborhood-type walks. Only 11 more walks remain and we hope you join us soon!
Feel freee to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 11 stair walks.
Steps walked to date: 16,794
Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA

1 comment:

  1. Looks fun. I worked in downtown L.A. from 1981 to 1987. Some of these things were there then, many were not. Gotta get back one of these days.