Story and photos by Nate Nickels
Mixing Halloween fun with a bit of a history lesson, the Stair Street Ghosts tour on Sunday, Oct. 30 shines a new light on the old Mt. Angelus section of Highland Park. Free, self-guided tours will showcase nine stairway streets, some of which will reopen for the event after having been closed to the public for nearly a quarter-century.
“I have always been interested in things that have been hidden in plain sight,” said Louisa Van Leer, a resident and artist who organized the tour. “The history of Mt. Angelus has been hidden from the community and I am excited to not only explore the rich history but also to share it with the local community.”
Fascinated with local history and the many public staircases, Van Leer began a bit of detective work and found a rich history and many fascinating stories about the neighborhood she calls home. She has been working to organize this event since January with the help of The Highland Park Heritage Trust, Council District One and the Artist Bailout Grant.
The staircases were built in the early 1900s by the developer of Mt. Angelus, Cora Scott Pond-Pope. She organized 85 suffrage leagues in Boston before heading to California. The streets of Mt. Angelus were named after influential people in Pond-Popes’s life and from the women’s suffrage movement. The stairway tour coincides with the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in California.
The staircases provided a much needed short-cut to through the steep hills. But in 1987, the city decided to close down five of the nine stair streets in Mt. Angelus because of the high crime rate at the time. Many of the staircases were locked, and the city gave the keys to the residents that lived next to the staircases.
Sunday’s self guided tour will be paired up with local artists, authors and a historical theme. Several bands and musicians, for example, will perform along the staircases. Charles Fleming, who authored a book on Los Angeles stairways, will also lead a personal walking tour. The day will end with a Halloween parade for kids and adults. Attendees are encouraged to dress in costumes for the event.
- Stair Street Ghosts to haunt Mt. Angelus. Patch