"Outdoor public stairways are a window into the soul of a community"
January 24, 2020 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to PublicStairs.com, the web site devoted to the discovery and documentation of major* outdoor public stairways anywhere in the world. This web site is a labor of love brought to you by Doug and Joan Beyerlein of Mill Creek, Washington. (* "Major" is defined herein as a continuous series of a minimum of 100 stairs.) The Stair Maps show that this is a very US-centric project, but there are some identified in Canada, UK, Germany, New Zealand, Thailand, Iceland, Italy, Saint Helena Island, Australia, Spain, and France, and the extreme list includes some notable stairs in other countries. Also, it's a charmingly Web 1.0 design, if that's a factor you consider for websites.
posted by filthy light thief (43 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
A few years ago, I re-visited My first girlfriend from 50 years earlier, and we took a long walk up and down beautiful midtown Haifa. You may add this to the list.
Midtown Haifa (Hadar) deserves to be a major Mediterranean attraction, it’s so charming, and undeveloped.
posted by growabrain at 11:46 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


It doesn't appear you can add an entry unless you can get there yourself and take a picture, but the Joker Stairs at 167th Street in The Bronx (NYC) are missing.
posted by DanSachs at 11:55 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I figured they would show a few in Pittsburgh. Turns out, they list 117 of them in the 'Burgh, more than anywhere else on the planet.
posted by tommyD at 12:01 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Here's a decent Google Streetview of what I assume are the Joker stairs, and my quick estimation indicates that there are more than 100 steps, so it would appear to be eligible.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:04 PM on January 24


Walking from Fira to the Old Port, on Santorini, via YouTube.

Did I really do that? Seems like another lifetime.
posted by StephenB at 12:07 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I would have thought San Francisco had this handily, but it's edged out by LA and Pittsburgh beats it by a lot.

An interesting thing about San Francisco is that there at least two places (the Vulcan Stairs and Telegraph Hill) where there are houses that can't be reached except via stairs and their "street" addresses are on the stairs themselves.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:08 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


To make this a 21st century endeavour, I'm surprised no one has semi-automated the locating of long series of stairs with sorting through Open Street Map's steps-tagged segments. It even has a Step Count field!

It also includes the ability to map handrail location, surface type, availability of ramps for strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs and even luggage.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I figured they would show a few in Pittsburgh. Turns out, they list 117 of them in the 'Burgh, more than anywhere else on the planet.

That's only a fraction of the total. Numbers vary but there are somewhere around 700 different city staircases in Pittsburgh.

We even have a 5 mile foot race all on stairs including Rising Main which is 17 stories tall.
posted by octothorpe at 12:22 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


It also includes the ability to map handrail location, surface type, availability of ramps for strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs and even luggage.

Probably an opportunity to add skate-ability score and linkages to video clips of the rails being ridden. That would be cool - finding a gnarly looking long handrail/staircase and being able to see if anyone has ever boardslided/grinded/jumped it.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:22 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Great walks in the Hollywood Hills remembered. Awesome stairs.
posted by allthinky at 12:27 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


My home town has what was known as "the 100 stairs" but one time I counted them and there was only 92 or something like that.
posted by RobotHero at 1:14 PM on January 24


a stairway in Jamestown on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, but it is not just any outdoor public stairway. It goes straight up Ladder Hill: no landings, just 699 stairs with a constant 11-inch run and an 11-inch rise. That makes for a 100% grade or slope.

The ascent record is 5 minutes, 16.78 seconds by Graham Doig. He went up using all fours (both hands and feet on the stairs).


I went to YouTube in the hopes of seeing similar videos of people scrambling up long stair cases monkey crawl-style and then went down a rabbit hole of Shaolin monks training, a remote village where people walk on all-fours and other all-fours running videos, but sadly no videos of people scrambling up really long sets of outdoor stairs that way.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:18 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


⌘F “Pittsburgh”
*nods in approval*
posted by D.Billy at 1:28 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I've actually been thinking for the past few months about having a project/personal goal of climbing every staircase in Seattle, for some value of "every". These 86 (third most after Pittsburgh and Los Angeles) seems like a good value for "every" to me. Step 1 was to dig up a list of stairways, which is now checked off thanks to this post. Step 2 will be to organize them into walking tours that let me knock out several in one hike. Thanks for the post, FTL!
posted by five toed sloth at 1:35 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I decided to add one I know about but can't actually take pictures of. Since it pulls together a couple of links I guess I'll share it here too if that's okay...

Location Top: 55.989645, -3.383049 (Wooded path above Hawes Inn, South Queensferry)
Location Bottom: 55.990047, -3.382741 Hawes Brae (Road)

Number of stairs: given as 120 in https://queensferry-at-war.weebly.com/queensferry-history/jacobs-ladder along with interesting info about the stair.
Materials: wood and bitumen, please see photo also at https://queensferry-at-war.weebly.com/queensferry-history/jacobs-ladder

Further photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/132423313@N03/24527957159/in/photolist-Dnsc86-dpaw98-7udtvj-2e2Apy2
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamkite/4257436368/in/photolist-Dnsc86-dpaw98-7udtvj-2e2Apy2
https://www.deviantart.com/gdphotography/art/Jacobs-Ladder-26250486
http://www.elsentoine.com/noorsefjorden2012/dagoverzicht/dag11.htm

The Hawes Inn at the foot of the stair is associated with Robert Louis Stevenson as part of the inspiration for his book Kidnapped.

The stair predates and is dramatically positioned beneath the Forth Bridge & must have seen heavy traffic during the bridge's construction. We're told in https://queensferry-at-war.weebly.com/queensferry-history/jacobs-ladder that it was constructed to aid access to the Ferry service which preceded construction of the bridge, and from which South Queensferry gets the 'ferry' part of its name.
posted by aesop at 1:41 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


OK so. Tacoma Washington wasn’t on my Bucket List (No insult intended and due deference and love to all from and/or currently residing in Tacoma). Y’all have a set of stairs with an optional SLIDE to go down? I genuflect in your direction and have added your city as a place I must visit.
posted by pipoquinha at 1:42 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


There's one by the Niagara River in NY, at Devil's hole SP. Devil's Hole is a small cave that is apparently a major party spot for local youth, judging from the graffiti and massive quantities of broken glass.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:52 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I see it's closed for construction now, but no Uncle Tom's Trail in Yellowstone with it's 300+ steps?
posted by Grumpy old geek at 2:22 PM on January 24


Come spring, I should go out and get a clearer creative commons picture of the Baldwin steps - only 110 steps, but it has a terrific view from the top!
posted by jb at 2:25 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Y’all have a set of stairs with an optional SLIDE to go down? I genuflect in your direction and have added your city as a place I must visit.

About that -- I'm not 100% sure that's the purpose of those stair-adjacent ramps. Per Open Street Maps, those ramps can be used for strollers, bicycles and/or luggage.

(Also, to slide down such a feature, make sure it's actually smooth. Otherwise, you might not really slide, or get a hole in your pants pretty fast.)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Austin only has one- Mt Bonnell, which is a public park. It’s an interesting place. It’s the best view of the city by far, & it must be on some international list of “things to do in Austin” because I go there a lot (I climb the stairs for exercise) and there’s always more foreigners there than locals. It’s not uncommon to see people from India, China, Africa, Europe, and I always hear at least 3 or 4 different languages. I love that.

Also, what an excellent site. This was the dream for the internet - labors of love, full of fun information for anyone with a browser. Thanks for digging up this gem of a site!
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:06 PM on January 24


Stairs? Those aren't stairs, these are stairs!

Meanwhile, Lisbon also has a set of "Joker Stairs", a bit less claustrophobic.
posted by chavenet at 3:52 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I would have thought San Francisco had this handily, but it's edged out by LA and Pittsburgh beats it by a lot.
Ah, but San Francisco can boast the stunning 16th Avenue Stairs. Seriously top-notch stairs there, take it from a public stair enthusiast and 15-year house-on-a-public-stairway resident.
An interesting thing about San Francisco is that there at least two places (the Vulcan Stairs and Telegraph Hill) where there are houses that can't be reached except via stairs and their "street" addresses are on the stairs themselves.
In my town (Ketchikan, AK) there are many public stairs, though only a few which exceed the 100-continuous-stairs threshold which counts for the site featured in this post. My house is located on a "public street" which is a combination of stairs and shared wooden boardwalk. It's only about 70 stairs from the base of the stairs to my house and so we're not on their list but the stairs & boardwalk are indeed the only way to visit my house (without tramping through someone's yard).

My particular street is only stairs and boardwalk but in this neighborhood there are several streets that are platted through that change back and forth between paved road and public stairs depending on the steepness of the section in question.

During the summer my town is filled with cruise ship tourists. Comparatively few venture outside of the downtown business area with its jewelry stores and t-shirt shops but even a tiny fraction of a million visitors is a fair amount of people. When I encounter some of the more intrepid visitors wandering further afield I encourage them to visit some of our public stairs, especially the top of the Edmonds Street stairs, just around the corner from where I live and featuring a lovely view over the roofs of town, the waters of Tongass Narrows, and the surrounding islands.

And because MeFites seem to like bear stories: people are not the only users of these stairs. I had quite a thrill a few years ago when, coming home one night in the pitch dark after a pinochle game with some friends, I encountered a bear coming down the stairs as I was going up them. Fortunately it was a well-mannered young bear who politely yielded to his elder but if you want to know how to get your heart really pumping -- that'll do the trick.

P.S.: anyone coming to Ketchikan who wants to visit our public stairs, shoot me a MeMail if you wish..
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:05 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]


Only 75 steps, I realize, but I'd like to think that they could stretch the rules a little for these.
posted by hawkeye at 4:48 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Escadaria Selarón in Rio de Janeiro
posted by Tom-B at 4:54 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Well. OK filthy light thief. I am crestfallen that they are not “safe” slides. Nonetheless this is a great post. Have calendared my next Board of Supervisors meeting to propose slides.
posted by pipoquinha at 5:00 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Here's a nice report on an urban hike of 844 steps in my neighborhood. I suspect at least one of these staircases is over 100 steps. Looks like I'll work on my cardio/glutes tomorrow to get a count.
posted by vespabelle at 5:30 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


The longest and most impressive stairs in Pittsburgh history are long gone but during the early 20th century The Indian Trail Steps spanned for almost a mile from West Carson Street all the way up to Grand View Avenue in Duquesne Heights.
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I am crestfallen that they are not “safe” slides.
That just means you need a stolen cafeteria tray or other protective device in order to ride them..
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:29 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


This post is my new favourite thing! I love stairs, I love climbing them, I love discovering them. And I'm lucky enough to currently be in Wellington with 9 on the map! I'm also currently unlucky to have a twisted ankle so will be waiting a while to climb some of these beautiful stairs.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 6:53 PM on January 24


RobotHero: My home town has what was known as "the 100 stairs" but one time I counted them and there was only 92 or something like that.

You should rally the town for a The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain event, to build another 8 steps.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:05 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Liege, Belgium has the Montagne de Bueren
posted by Steakfrites at 1:10 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Where I live is so flat. The highest point in town is the overpass over the train yard. No major stairs in my town, that's for sure!
posted by freethefeet at 1:47 AM on January 25


There's a set of 321 stairs in Passau, Germany that I recently climbed but they're covered so maybe they don't qualify for this collection? They go up to a monastery with great views overlooking the city and Inn River. It was a Mary pilgrimage point, where traditionally pilgrims would prostrate up every step.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:05 AM on January 25


alright who’s gonna do valparaíso
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:10 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


i mean among the many challenges of doing this for valpo (chief being of course how freaking long it would take) is that there are certain streets there that blur the established dichotomy between “thoroughfare to drive cars on” and “staircase to walk up” that exists in saner cities.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:12 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I'm actually more interested in hidden staircases that make for pedestrian shortcuts, no height requirement. I toyed with the idea of creating a site dedicated to them, but since I only knew of two that I found near where I worked*, I didn't get around to it.


* Both in Burlington, MA. Memail me if you want to know where they are.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:02 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I live near Vulcan, Saturn and Pemberton stairways all in the Corona/Corbett Heights neighborhoods in SF and have taken my dog on many a walks up and down these stairs. Every walk though, I always winced at the difficulty moving house must be for the folks (or their hired movers) who have no direct street access and whose front doors open directly onto the stairs. That must be such a nightmare. Also, a little creepy at night, I'd think, with homeless and sketch tweakers wandering up the hill from the Castro. Oh, and I wonder what plans the fire department has to quickly reach the houses in the middle of the stairwells between each block and if that has an impact on insurance rates. I'd still kill to live in one of them though!
posted by flamk at 12:48 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Kirth Gerson: I'm actually more interested in hidden staircases that make for pedestrian shortcuts, no height requirement. I toyed with the idea of creating a site dedicated to them, but since I only knew of two that I found near where I worked*, I didn't get around to it.

This feels like a thing that would start as a Twitter discussion, which could then become a proper (OldWeb) website like this one.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on January 28


There's one of those tiny hidden staircase shortcuts near me, and it makes a walk to a nearby park half a mile shorter than going the standard way. You can't see it until you're right on it, and I think it's actually on private property but the residents don't seem to mind. Weirdly, Google Maps knows about it and uses it as a pedestrian route. I wonder who told them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:45 AM on January 28


Let me know if it becomes a website. I don't do Twit.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:18 AM on January 28


Weirdly, Google Maps knows about it and uses it as a pedestrian route. I wonder who told them.

Google knows where people walk when they have location services enabled on their phone. The algorithm sees that people are walking there and eventually it becomes a recommended route.

There is a great bit in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that deals with this
(spoilers follow for anyone who hasn't read a 65 year old book).
Mike, the sentient computer at the centre of the book, controls everything at the lunar colony. The protagonist Mannie observes that while Mike couldn't have ever seen a map of the colony (being difficult to produce because the colony is haphazard three dimensional that takes advantage of naturally occurring caves) Mike can almost always determine where Mannie is by relating his location to other locations.

posted by Mitheral at 1:15 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Interesting site, and I was wondering if the stairs in my town made it on there (or if they qualified). They did. I just walked down these stairs this morning as I do most days. I generally walk up the next street over, which is slightly less steep, but still has over 150 steps broken up into less continuous parts.

My 20-25 minute walk home every day - with about 170m (~550ft) of elevation gain - is what keeps me from getting really out of shape. I can also justify a beer at the brewery next door on the way home a little more easily.
posted by sauril at 10:35 AM on January 30


« Older It's all of us caring for each other.   |   Spotted while resting: a ruin by a gentle river Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments