Hollywood is fertile ground for history buffs! There's no doubt that cinematic history is forever intertwined with the growth of Hollywood. However, the story behind how the world's entertainment capital went from a barren plot of land to a thriving wonderland of lights is worthy of its own movie! If you're planning to visit Tinseltown, this quick look at the history of Hollywood will help you prepare!
The basin area around modern-day Hollywood was first settled by the Tongva Native Americans. By 1850, Los Angeles was incorporated as a city. This was also the year when California became part of the Union. During the later part of the 1800s, the future Hollywood region was an agricultural goldmine where figs, citrus, and other crops flourished.
Hollywood's very humble origins can be traced back to 1853. That's when an investor named Harvey Henry Wilcox moved from Kansas to Los Angeles to purchase 150 acres of land intended for ranching. What we know as Hollywood today was actually a farming community called Cahuenga Valley that thrived for about 20 years. However, Wilcox's attention turned toward dividing his land for upscale homes after his attempts at ranching were less than successful. After Wilcox's passing, his remarried widow continued the work of developing the area. Plans included schools, churches, and libraries. The area's "cool factor" rose when an artist named Paul De Longpre built an estate at the current corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard.
The Opening of the Hollywood Hotel
The year 1902 marks the opening of the famed Hollywood Hotel at Prospect Avenue and Highland Avenue. Hollywood was incorporated as a city the following year. In 1909, a town just south of Hollywood called Colegrove was also incorporated into growing Los Angeles. At this point, the area encompassing Santa Monica Boulevard becomes part of Hollywood and Los Angeles.
The Movies Come to Hollywood
In 1908, a film called "The Count of Monte Cristo" finished filming in Hollywood after production began in Chicago. Moviemakers turned an area on Sunset Boulevard into the first official film studio in the city. It wasn't long before nearly two dozen film studios were creating movies in the area. The first feature film to be officially filmed fully in Hollywood was Cecil B. DeMille's "Squaw Man" in 1913. In the coming years, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, and other film studios continued churning out films filmed here as part of the Golden Age of Hollywood. While the idea of filming movies on location grew following World War II, more and more television shows began production on the lots in Hollywood.
The Great Landmarks of Hollywood
The period from 1919 through the 1950s marks an extraordinary time for development in Hollywood! Some of the additions to the city included Musso & Frank Grill in 1919, the Hollywood Bowl in 1922, El Capitan Theatre in 1926, Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1927, and the Capitol Records building in 1956. The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929.
This is also the period when the iconic Hollywood Sign was first erected. In 1923, a sign was placed on Mount Lee that read "HOLLYWOODLAND." The purpose of the sign was to announce a new upscale development in the Hollywood Hills. In 1949, the sign was rebuilt by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. However, the last four letters of the sign were removed to give us the iconic "HOLLYWOOD" sign that the world knows today! Another restoration of the sign took place in 1978.
History Isn't Done Being Made: Plan Your Visit to Hollywood
While the history of Hollywood is always fascinating to read about, there's nothing quite like walking in the footsteps of the innovators and creators who brought this city to life! That's why people from around the world travel to Los Angeles to tour landmarks, movie studios, and mountain passes offering glittery views of the gilded city below. The magic that inspired some of the biggest movements in popular culture can still be found when you're out and about for a date night in Hollywood.