A Short History ofHollywood
When Spanish explorers first entered the area now known as Hollywood, Native Americans were living in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. Before long, the Indians had been moved to missions and the land which Hollywood now occupies was divided in two by the Spanish Government. Acreage to the west became part of Rancho La Brea and settlements to the East became Rancho Los Feliz.
By the 1870s an agricultural community flourished in the area and crops ranging from hay and grain to subtropical bananas and pineapples were thriving. During the 1880s, the Ranchos were sub-divided. In 1886, H. H. Wilcox bought an area of Rancho La Brea that his wife then christened “Hollywood.” Within a few years, Wilcox had devised a grid plan for his new community, paved Prospect Avenue (now Hollywood Boulevard) for his main street and was selling large residential lots to wealthy Mid-westerners looking to build homes so they could “winter in California.”
Prospect Avenue soon became a prestigious residential street populated with large Queen Anne, Victorian, and Mission revival houses. Mrs. Daeida Wilcox raised funds to build churches, schools and a library and Hollywood quickly became a complete and prosperous community. The community incorporated in 1903, but its independence was short-lived, as the lack of water forced annexation in 1910 to the city of Los Angeles, which had a surplus supply of water.
In 1911, the Nestor Company opened Hollywood’s first film studio in an old tavern on the corner of Sunset and Gower. Not long thereafter Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith began making movies in the area drawn to the community for its open space and moderate climate.
The needs of this thriving new industry created radical changes in the community causing a clash between older and newer residents. Acres of agricultural land south of what-is-now Hollywood Boulevard were subdivided and developed as housing for the enormous numbers of workers that move-making required.
High-rise commercial buildings began to spring up along Hollywood Boulevard three competing real-estate interests caused concentrations of development at Highland, Cahuenga, and at Vine. It wasn’t long before nearly all the homes along the Boulevard were replaced by commercial buildings linking the three corners.
Banks, restaurants, clubs and movie palaces sprang up, catering to the demands of the burgeoning film industry during the 1920s and 1930s. The architectural styles of the buildings were representative of those most popular between the World Wars. Banks were typically designed in the more formal Beaux Arts styles, but other buildings in the community took on more playful personalities.
The ornamental Spanish Colonial Revival style reflected Hollywood’s self-conscious extravagance while the new Art Deco and Moderne styles fit the community’s aspirations for glamour and sophistication.
Hollywood has been anything but static, however, and after a few decades as the capital of film glamour, the neighborhood changed again. Although much of the studio work remained in Hollywood, many stars moved to Beverly Hills, and the elegant shops and restaurants left with them.
In the 1960s, music recording studios and offices began moving to Hollywood offshoot of the nightclubs, further west on Sunset Boulevard. Other businesses, however, continued to migrate to different parts of the city. Hollywood today is a diverse, vital, and active community striving to preserve the elegant buildings from its past. Much of the movie industry remains in the area, although the neighborhood’s outward appearance has changed.
In 1985, the Hollywood Boulevard commercial and entertainment district was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places protecting the neighborhood’s important buildings and seeing to it that the significance of Hollywood’s past would always be a part of its future.