Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Secret Stairs #4-Glassell Park South-Taylor Yard

This walk starts at Rio de Los Angeles State Park; which is also known as Taylor Yard.  Taylor Yard is uniquely connected to the early history of Los Angeles and was home for centuries to the Tongva Indians.  This site, by many accounts, is where Los Angeles was dubbed "Los Angeles."  It is the site described in the first recorded written words about Los Angeles, where  the Portola expedition spent the night on August 2, 1769, after crossing the Arroyo Seco.  Father Crespi, who kept a diary of this expedition, wrote more than a thousand words that day about this "green, lush valley", its "very full flowing, wide river" and the "riot of color" in the hills.  The place defined abundance with native grapevines, wild roses and sage growing in rich soils, grizzly, antelope, quail and steelhead trout for the taking.  The first two days of August marked the annual feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula-so they renamed the river and the valley through which it flowed in its honor:  :  El Rio y Valle de Nuestra Se├▒ora la Reina de Los Angeles de la Porciuncula, later shortened to Rio de Los Angeles.

San Fernando Road, which is the street the park is located on, provided the major access route between the Pueblo of Los Angeles and the Mission San Fernando.  The area was part of one of the first and largest original land grants made to the Mexican and Spanish settlers to establish the pueblo of Los Angeles.  It was known as Rancho San Raphael and was a 36,000 land grant that was made to Jose Maria Verdugo on October 20, 1784 by Governor Gages.  In 1871, the US Land Commission confirmed the Rancho of San Rafael to the Verdugo family.  In 1881, the land was subdivided  and sold to Andrew Glassell, Alexis Jeffries, Harriet Atwater Paramour and others.  Early development consisted of agriculture, a few homes along Figueroa Street and summer cottages in the hills overlong the Arroyo Seco.  Mount Washington began attracting artists in the 1890's.

In the late 1890's, the site was owned by J. Hartley Taylor, who was an entrepreneur who owned the Taylor Grocery and the Taylor Milling Company; which was a commercial feed manufacturer on San Fernando Road.  Taylor raised oats, barley, hogs and pigeons on the riverfront land.  Most of the homes in the Taylor Yard area were not constructed until the housing boom of the 1920's and the banks of the Los Angeles River were encased in concrete in the late 1930's.

The Taylor property became a rail yard in the 1920's, when Southern Pacific Railroad outgrew its Midway Yard facility.  Major development on the Taylor Yard site occurred in the early 1930's with construction of the south turntable, machine shops and other related buildings.  The primary purpose of the Taylor yard was a freight-switching facility, where freight cars were combined and re-routed to different destinations.  In 1960's, things started to change, as Southern Pacific  re-routed its north-south trains through the Cajon Pass instead of through downtown Los Angeles.  In 1985, Taylor Yard closed its long standing purpose as a freight switching facility, which also caused a loss of several hundred jobs to residents of the local communities.

Over time, the Southern Pacific Railroad sold 3/4 of the site.  They relocated the rail line away from San Fernando Road and towards the LA River.  The Southern Pacific Railroad worked with the Dept. of Toxic Substance Control and undertook an extensive analysis of the contaminated soils and developed an action plan for remediation.  Clean up was completed on the initial sale parcels in 1997.   A Metrolink Maintenance Facility was the first new use developed on 29 acres at the southernmost end of Taylor Yard without public review.  The community voiced their outrage and a lawsuit was filed , which resulted in the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority agreeing to fund several mitigations to the project; which consists of a large mural on the side of the building, plantings along San Fernando Road and a public art project located along an access road.  An agreement was also reached for the agency to fund a pedestrian bridge over the river.

The communities surrounding Taylor Yard began to demand a master planning process for Taylor Yard that would balance open space and jobs, community services and retail.  Federal Express built a building in the middle of the street side of the site in 1997, which severely compromised the opportunity to master plan the site in the community's best interest.

In 1999, the City of Los Angeles adopted the Northeast CommunityPlan, in order to prevent continued piecemeal development at the site.  A master plan should be prepared for the Taylor Yard area to include protection for public open space/recreational activity near the Los Angeles River.  

Finally after many lawsuits, the first phase of Rio de Los Angeles State Park was developed with funding from State park bonds and opened on Earth Day, 2007.  In 2010, Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies opened, which consisted of 2 Independent Charter schools and3 LAUSD Pilot Schools, including the LA River School.    Proponents of Rio de Los Angeles State Park would like to eventually extend the park to the river.  There is still much debate on how the rest of the land will be used.

Now, onto the walk.  After leaving the Park, you walk across the street and up Macon Street, which is a narrow alley like street.  There is this wall art on the corner.

The walk continues uphill until you reach the Tillie Street stairs, which is one of the few true walk streets and the houses can only be accessed by the stairways, which consists of 135 steps.  The stairs were courtesy of the builders MacDonald and Kahn and inspector W.E. Moyle from 1928

At the top of the staircase, we turned right and headed downhill, to the next staircase, which goes up 133 stairs and provides great views.




When we got to the top of the stairs, we were told to walk straight ahead and turn left.  This street took us on the back side of Mt. Washington,  after which we crest the hill and then come down and turn right.  At the corner house, this is the scarecrow we saw.

The paved road becomes a dirt road and we were in Elyria Canyon, which is a parkland controlled by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

We walk for awhile up and down on this dirt path, until we see a red barn like house.

I love the way the author describes this area, "Beyond it you'll find a shady glen outfitted with benches, a drinking fountain and trailheads leading up and around the edges of the canyon."

When you have fed and watered the horses, go back past the red house and bear right onto the dirt road."

We head back onto a paved road and head downhill.


The houses in this area vary in age and size.  This is the front of one of the houses.

At the bottom of the hill turn left and go up a bit and then turn left and another climb and turn right and another climb and view the freestone stairway.


There is also an interesting colored house to view.


Turn left and head back to Tillie Street.  This time we got to go downhill.
  When we got to the bottom of the stairs we walked straight ahead and found more wall art.  

After this we head back to the park and the car.  It was an interesting walk, even with all of the hills and stairs.   This is a picture of a sign for a business that is no longer there, which appears to be typical for the area.  


Until the next walk!  "Secret Stairs"  is a book by Charles Fleming.  It is a walking guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. 



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