Stair Candy: The Silver Lake Heart Stairs

Stair Candy

The Silver Lake Heart Stairs

In Silver Lake, you’ll find a set of concrete steps frequently painted with hearts and bright colors.

Stair Candy

Way back in April of 2015, three artists conspired to paint an otherwise unremarkable set of concrete steps in Silver Lake, Carla O’Brien and Mandon Bossi, along with Corinne Carrey, worked in secret to turn the otherwise drab Micheltorena Stairs on Sunset Boulevard, right across the street from where Micheltorena meets Sunset, into a brightly colored, heart-adorned staircase.

They named it Stair Candy.

The slightly graffitied Stair Candy in January 2017. Photo from the author’s collection.

Stair Candy remained a guerrilla art project for almost four years. The Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission retroactively approved the painted steps as an official public arts project during their January 9, 2019 meeting. They also similarly approved Carrey’s other Silver Lake Mural, “Stair Tempo,” painted to resemble piano keys on the nearby Murray Stairs (although the report calls it the Hamilton Staircase).

Corinne Carey’s Stair Tempo, June 2022. Photo from the author’s collection.

If you enjoy reading the minutes from the Cultural Affairs Commission, that report is available online.

When construction started on the vacant lot to the north of the Micheltorena Stairs (which would eventually become the Vica Condos), there was some concern that this development would impact the community-loved colorful steps. Developers in Los Angeles, after all, don’t much care for preserving iconic neighborhood landmarks.

But, to everyone’s surprise, the Micheltorena Stairs remained painted in its bright colors.

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Sad Silver Lake Heart Stairs

The colors, exposed each day to the rays of the rising Los Angeles sun, would fade over time. But for years, the artists would regularly arrange for someone to revisit the stairs and apply any necessary touch ups.

As early as September 2017, a street artist named Lonesome Town started visiting the Silver Lake Heart Stairs and painting the stair’s hearts with sad faces and the colorful stair risers with tears. And so it went for years. The stairs would get brightened up, only to have Lonesome Town come along and add his sad faces. After the stairs were touched up in the spring of 2021 (and Lonesome Town showed up once again to paint over them), the original artists seem the have given up.

The stairs sat — abandoned and fading in the sun, unloved and untended — gathering graffiti for nearly a year. Until one day in April 2022, the entire mural was covered over with a bad paint job using the standard graffiti-abating paint the city uses to cover frequently tagged surfaces. It’s the same pain that was used to cover over Hitting the Wall along The 110 Freeway. The city, though, claims they weren’t responsible.

In the wake of this tragedy, Carla O’Brien (one of the original artists) flew to Los Angeles from her home in Melbourne, Australia to lead a team of painting volunteers from the Silver Lake Improvement Association in restoring Stair Candy to its original glory.

The revitalized Stair Candy on June 20, 2022. Photo from the author’s collection.

If Stair Candy looks familiar, you have probably seen it on Instagram. Some say the most Instagrammed stairs in the world, though there’s no empirical evidence for this. But still, it frequently shows up under the hashtag #staircandy and location tag Micheltorena Steps. Or perhaps you’ve seen it in T.J. Maxx commercial from a few years back.

And although there are a total of 177 steps that make up the Micheltorena stairs, only the first 40 are part of Stair Candy. The other 137 steps are more barren, although some of them are decorated in the spirit of the initial 40 steps leading up from Sunset Boulevard.

Upper Micheltorena Steps, June 2022. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Micheltorena Steps, one of the original stairways that were poured throughout Silver Lake in the early days of a rapidly expanding Los Angeles, are approaching 100 years old. They date back to 1925 when contractor George D. Nichols first poured the steps. We know this because he stamped his work in the first landing of the steps.

Geo. D. Nichols, Contractor, 1925. One of the pavementeers who built the streets of Los Angeles. Photo from the author’s collection.

Silver Lake Stairways

Much of Northeast Los Angeles is rich with staircases connecting streets. Many of these tiered passageways, including Lauren & Hardy’s famous Music Box Steps, can be found in Silver Lake. Many of them are painted today, and to learn more about these rich tapestries, pay a visit to the Painted Stairways of Silver Lake Facebook Group.

All these staircases once served as a means for pedestrians to easily access stops along the Red Car electric railway in this hilly section of the city. Although the last cars were removed from service in 1955, many remnants of their heyday — such as the Silver Lake Stonehenge and the original footings of today’s Red Car Pedestrian Bridge — remain today. But the most visible of these railway artifacts are the numeorus stairways scattered about Silver Lake.

For a full account of the Stairways of Los Angeles, pick up a copy of Charles Fleming’s classic Secret Stairs, newly revised in 2020. This book features 42 different stairway history-filled walks throughout Los Angeles, including 11 right in Silver Lake.

Stair Candy: The Silver Lake Heart Stairs

Thank you for visiting the Los Angeles Explorers Guild. If you’re enjoying our explorations of Los Angeles, please consider supporting us on Patreon or making a one-time donation via PayPal. We appreciate your support.

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Gateway to Los Angeles

Gateway to Los Angeles

(Twin Dragons)

Spanning The 101 Freeway at Los Angeles Street and Main Street, you will find two sculptures that work in concert to greet newcomers to the City of Los Angeles.

Gateway to L.A. — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

The Gateway to Los Angeles

As you drive into Downtown Los Angeles on the Hollywood Freeway (The 101 North), you’ll pass beneath a pair of complementary sculptures known together xas the Gateway to Los Angeles.

One sculpture spans the freeway along Los Angeles Street and the other one stretches above what was once El Camino Real on Main Street. Each sculpture is more than 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall.

They’re certainly striking structures, but they’re very easy to miss when you’re riding along the constantly dense traffic of The 101 — especially the structure along Main Street. To really appreciate the Gateway to Los Angeles, visiting them from on top of the freeway overpasses is your best bet.

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Pasadena Robinson Memorial

Pasadena Robinson Memorial

Just outside Pasadena City Hall, you’ll find two giant heads — one of baseball player Jackie Robinson and the other of Olympic athlete Mack Robinson.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. But he spent his formative years in Pasadena, first at John Muir High School and then at Pasadena Junior College. And Pasadena really likes to remind you that Mr. Robinson has deep roots in Crown City.

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Running with the Grunions: How to Attend a California Grunion Run

Running with the Grunions

How to Attend a California Grunion Run

Along the beaches of Southern California, on certain nights of the month in spring and summer, you can watch thousands of silvery fish throw themselves onto the beach to spawn.

What is a Grunion?

The fish known as California Grunion, scientific name Leuresthes tenuis, are members of the silverside family. They’re silvery in color, almost translucent, and shimmer with blue and green highlights in the light.

These fish are famous all throughout California for their nighttime, high-tide mating ritual. They swim up onto the beaches in astounding numbers, arriving as the incoming waves break on the shore, in order to lay and fertilize their eggs. Sometimes there are so many grunion spawning, the beach looks like a shimmering silver carpet.

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City Hall Observation Deck

City Hall Observation Deck

and a Brief History of the Lindbergh Beacon

In Downtown Los Angeles you can take in a panoramic view of the entire city from atop Los Angeles City Hall for free.

Los Angeles City Hall: A Deck With a View

You’ve probably seen pictures of the skyline of downtown Los Angeles. But since most of the tall buildings in Los Angeles are part of the skyline, it can be challenging to take in a view of the this sight with your own eyes.

Fortunately, one of the best places to take in a view of the Los Angeles skyline — as well as panoramic vistas of the entire sprawling city — is right in the heart of the L.A. itself. All you need to do is take a trip to Los Angeles City Hall Observation Deck, thoughtfully located on the 27th floor of Los Angeles City Hall.

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The Last Payphone Before the Forest

The Last Payphone Before the Forest

On a lonely road in Altadena, just before you enter the Angeles National Forest, you’ll come across one of the last working payphones in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles used to have a near endless forest of payphones spread across its landscape. But today, only a handful remain. One of those holdouts stands on the side of Chaney Trail, just before the edge of the Angeles National Forest.

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Bob’s Market

Bob’s Market

In Echo Park, you’ll find one of the most famous movie markets of all time.

Bob’s Market is a small, neighborhood grocery store on the border between Echo Park and Angelino Heights. Though just a humble neighborhood shop, Bob’s is visited by countless tourists who travel thousands of miles to be photographed standing in front of its facade.

This popularity, like so many places in Los Angeles, stems from the market’s role in a movie. Bob’s Market is the real-world double for Toretto’s Market & Cafe, where Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) served Brian O’Connor (the late Paul Walker) “tuna on white, no crust” in the first entry of the storied Fast & Furious franchise.

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Bust of José de San Martin

Bust of José de San Martin

In the middle of a traffic island along a hectic street just outside of Beverly Hills, you can find a tribute to the father of Chile, Peru, and Argentina.

José de San Martín: Father of the Nation

In Los Angeles, right at the southeastern border into Beverly Hills, if you’re paying attention you’ll encounter an unusual monument honoring José de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Al Padre de la Patria: José de San Martin. Photo from the author’s collection.

The monument consists of a tall stone tablet that displays a bronze bust of General de San Martin on one side and a map of South America with the countries of Argentia, Chile, and Peru highlighted.

The legacy of José de San Martin. Photo from the author’s collection.

Who was Don José de San Martin?

José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras was as general from Argentina and principal leader of the armies in the battle for independence against the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. He’s known as the Liberator of Argentina, Chile, and Peru and was the first Protector of Peru — an office that’s still in existence today.

José de San Martin is most famous for crossing the Andes into Chile to engage — and defeat — Rafael Maroto at Chacabuco and crushing the Spanish forces at Maipú (alongside Chilean Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins), effectively ending Spanish rule over Chile.

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A Walk Down Ord Street

Ord Street is a relatively short street in the heart of Chinatown, but it’s legacy reaches back to the pueblo’s first move toward commercialization.

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Al Padre de la Patria

While we know quite a bit about José de San Martin, very little is known about this monument. It has a plaque that tells us it’s the work of Fernando di Zitti, an architect who holds a degree in Urbanism from the National University of Mar del Plata, Argentina. Roy Payton, a civil engineer (for the city, one presumes), also had a hand in creating the monument.

Below this small attribution there’s a larger plaque that tells us it was probably commissioned by the Embassy of Argentina and Consulate-General of Los Angeles and gives the only indication of the monument’s title. It reads:


This plaque is dated November 2001.

Visiting the José de San Martin Monument

This monument is in a weird place. It sits in the middle of a triangular traffic island at San Vicente Blvd and Burton Way. This makes it very difficult for anyone to appreciate. The traffic along these streets drives by so quickly, it’s unlikely that anyone even notices the head of the man honored as a liberator for roughly a third of South America.

José de San Martin. Photo from the author’s collection.

The traffic island is equally unfriendly for pedestrians. Although there is a crosswalk, figuring out how to cross the right way to get to the monument is an exercise in frustration, both due to poor urban design and the cars that speed by with no regard for anyone on foot. And even if you do manage to make it across the street to the spot alive, the traffic islands around the space are peppered with a confusing array of “Pedestrians Prohibited” signs.

Everywhere you turn — pedestrians prohibited. Photo from the author’s collection.

But let’s say you’re able to visit and pay your respects to General de San Martin. You’ll have to wonder … what is a monument for a famous South American figure doing in the middle of a neglected traffic island on the outskirts of Beverly Hills? For this, we have no answer.

Father of the Nation: Bust of José de San Martín

Thank you for visiting the Los Angeles Explorers Guild. If you’re enjoying our explorations of Los Angeles, please consider supporting us on Patreon or making a one-time donation via PayPal. We appreciate your support.

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

La Placita: La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles

La Placita

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles

In Downtown Los Angeles, where the modern city was founded by 44 pobladores from Mexico, you’ll find the oldest church in Los Angeles.

La Placita: The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels

In 1814, the cornerstone of a church was placed just off the central square of the small pueblo that would become Los Angeles. It was the first — and for 92 years the only — Roman Catholic church in Los Angeles. And although it’s been rebuilt and remodeled numerous times over the past 200 years, The Church of Our Lady Queen of Angels — more popularly as La Placita and the Plaza Church — still stands adjacent to Plaza Olvera in downtown Los Angeles.

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Donut Watch: Strawberry Donut from Donut Man

Donut Watch: Strawberry Donut from Donut Man

In Claremont, along Historic Route 66, you’ll find The Donut Man, home of the city-famous Strawberry Donut.

The Donut Man

The Donut Man is a small, unassuming shop on a quiet stretch of Route 66, right in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. If you’re not paying attention, it would be easy to pass it by. But that would be a mistake, because this tiny shop with its retro 70s signage offers one of the best donuts in Los Angeles — the famous Strawberry Donut.

The Donut Man shop on Route 66 in Claremont. Photo from the author’s collection.

Jim Nakano, the shop’s owner, has been slinging donuts from this compact store along Route 66 in Glendora since 1972. For the first eight years, the shop was part of the Foster’s Donuts family, but Jim went solo in 1980. According to legend, shortly after Jim had decided to go it alone, he was recognized by a young child who said, “Look! It’s the Donut Man!”

The shop has been known as The Donut Man ever since.

The Strawberry Donut

Glendora is rich with strawberry farms. As the story goes, one day a local strawberry grower was picking up a few donuts. Being the conversational sort, he mentioned he had a bumper crop of strawberries that year. He thought that maybe Jim could figure out a way to use all those excess strawberries in a donut.

So he did. After a little experimentation to get the sweetness just right, Jim hit upon the perfect formula. The Strawberry Donut was a runaway hit from the day it was introduced.

When it comes to strawberries, The Donut Man’s not kidding around. This thing is loaded with fresh strawberries.

Fresh Strawberry Donuts in the window of The Donut Man. Photo from the author’s collection.

It’s packed with so many strawberries (an excess, one might say), it’s a challenge to eat.

The only problem with the Strawberry Donut is that it’s a seasonal item. It shows up around February when the strawberry harvest begins. But when that’s done, the Strawberry Donut is gone until the next year. But The Donut Man also makes a Peach Donut in a style similar to the Strawberry Donut. And, of course, the shop makes all the usual donut varieties, including the Tiger Tail, a 12-inch braided donut with chocolate and cinnamon.

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The Donut Man in Glendora is open 24 hours a day. The shop is small, so there’s no indoor seating. However, there is a drive-thru window so you don’t even need to leave your car to fill up on donuts.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to travel along the 210 East out to Glendora, you’re in luck. Donut Man has a spot in Downtown’s Grand Central Market. But by the time you cut through downtown traffic and find parking, getting out to Glendora may be faster.

Donut Man

Thank you for visiting the Los Angeles Explorers Guild. If you’re enjoying our explorations of Los Angeles, please consider supporting us on Patreon or making a one-time donation via PayPal. We appreciate your support.

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.