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Hidden Los Angeles

A tradition of this conference series is to include a short essay about the location of the conference, allowing delegates a greater understanding of the historical and cultural developments over the years that shaped the host town or city into what is seen today.

In brief, Downtown Los Angeles has traditionally been seen as the main business and govenermental centre of the wider Los Angeles metropolitan area, and is well known for its parks and theatres, a diverse residential neighbourhood, and perhaps more infamously for its own ‘Skid Row’; east of Main Street, Los Angeles’ Skid Row is said to have one of the USA’s largest stable populations of homeless people (between 3-6,000). In recent years Downtown Los Angeles has been through a resurgence, with once empty but yet intact historical buildings being repurposed, allowing the centre to blossom with new inverstment and increases in residential populations.

However, with a city as expansive and diverse as Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the United States, any short essay would surely be left wanting – an alternative approach is required …

And so, compiled below is but a small selection of the oddities and curiosities available at the Atlas Obscura website, concentrating on the downtown district, centred around Pershing Square, many of which are within comfortable walking distance of the Millennium Biltmore conference hotel. Images and text (edited) are with the kind permission of Atlas Obscura*.

The Last Bookstore453 S. SPRING STREET 


The Last Bookstore is an iconic LA bookstore housed in the grand atrium of what was once a bank. The marble pillars and mile-high ceiling remain from the old bank, but in place of patrons and guarded stacks of cash, bookshelves line the walls and artful displays of books abound. The bookstore specializes in reasonably priced used books, and takes great pride in offering a selection of well-kept vintage books as well. Anyone who’s ever loved a vintage book will know exactly what that means for the musty, decadent smell that hangs in the air in this seemingly sacred place (6 minutes walk).


The fifth and final space shuttle that NASA built, Endeavour was an orbiter that flew its first mission in 1992. Built to replace the doomed Challenger shuttle after it was lost during launch, Endeavour represented hope and perseverance, a symbol of the bravery displayed by the men and women who persisted in exploring the unknown, despite the strong odds against them (30 mins by cab).

Angels Flight         351 SOUTH HILL STREET     


Established in 1901, the historic funicular Angels Flight railway has carried millions of Angelenos up and down the steep incline of Bunker Hill. Though the 315-foot trip only lasts thirty seconds, it is believed that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, making it not only the shortest in length, but also the most traveled (6 mins walk).

Bob Baker Marionette Theater      1345 W. 1ST STREET

Bob Baker is an established puppeteer, and with the help of his 3,000 handmade marionettes, has been entertaining audiences for over 70 years. Baker was a key activist in establishing union status for puppeteers, and his theater serves as a training ground for many puppet-makers who go on to work in fantasy films. With a long history of working in Hollywood, Baker’s creations have been featured in TV shows such as Star Trek and Bewitched, and films such as Bluebeard, A Star is Born and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (25 minutes walk/4 mins by cab).

Clifton’s Cafeteria      648 SOUTH BROADWAY

Clifton’s Cafeteria, a cabinet of curiosities, where you can “Dine for Free Unless Delighted” (7 mins walk).


*Atlas Obscura. “Definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous places. Travel tips, articles, strange facts and unique events.” http://www.atlasobscura.com


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