It was home tour weekend, which gave me the opportunity to be a tourist -- very briefly -- in the neighborhood. It was the fifth such event for the Echo Park Historical Society, this year's tour focusing on public stair streets -- basically houses that are hard to get to and often hidden from view of motor streets. One house, for example: I'd never seen it from the street, and you had to follow a very long curving brick driveway -- two sharp curves and a long straightaway -- to reach it. ... On Echo Park Avenue, I noticed an uptick in traffic, lots of drivers making their way uncertainly, looking for parking spaces, u-turning. On Sunset, I saw a sign for a new cafe at Laveta Terrrace, where the appliance store used to be, and then made my annual visit to the Asian grocery store. Down at Barlow, where my job was to help interpret the map of Echo Park, I met people from Syracuse, NY, and the West Side of Los Angeles as well as Echo Park neighbors I'd never seen before. All very exotic.
Of the "many staircases that run up the hills and, in a few cases, cliffs of Echo Park," EPHS says:
These stairways are a defining element of our community. ... They are also a reminder of an era when the car did not yet dominate daily life in Los Angeles.
Echo Park was originally built around an elaborate trolley system. Because its hills were so steep, Echo Park was graced with a network of public staircases that allowed commuters to hop off a streetcar and walk uphill to their homes.