Hollywood is a neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles, about 3 miles northwest of Downtown, best known for its leadership of the U.S. film industry. Also called “Tinseltown”, Hollywood is an ethnically diverse, densely populated, relatively low-income neighborhood. In 2002 the city voted to become an independent municipality from Los Angeles, but voters decided against it by a large margin. Surrounding neighborhoods and areas include West Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Koreatown, Central L.A., and Fairfax. Hollywood overlaps and includes the area known as Little Armenia.
By the 1870’s a flourishing agricultural community known as the Cahuenga Valley, because of its closeness to the pass through the Santa Monica Montains just to the north, had established itself in the area. According to the story of H.J. Whitely, a developer known as the “Father of Hollywood”, he named the city Hollywood in 1886 after “Holly” which would represent England and “wood” would represent his Scottish heritage. In August 1887, another investor and developer Harvey. H. Wilcox filed with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office a deed and parcel map of property he had sold named “Hollywood, California.” Wilcox wanted to be the first to record it on a deed. The first hotel in Hollywood, called the Glen-Holly Hotel, was built in the 1890’s at the corner of what is now Yucca Street. Hollywood was incorporated in 1903 and became part of the City of Los Angeles in 1910. Soon after Hollywood joined with Los Angeles, a prominent film industry began to grow. By 1900, the region had a post office, newspaper, hotel, two markets and a population of 102,479 many of whom still worked in the remaining vineyards, barely fields, and citrus groves. Growth of the area was slow partly due to there being only a single-track streetcar providing service to Downtown Los Angeles with infrequent service that took two hours.
The Hollywood Hotel was opened in 1902 by H. J. Whitley, president of the Los Pacific Boulevard and Development Company, in order to attract land buyers. The hotel was to become internationally known and was the center of the civic and social life and home of the stars for many years. Today it is one of the historic landmarks of Hollywood. Whitley’s company also developed and sold one of the early residential areas, the Ocean View Tract. Whitley did much to promote the area, paying thousands of dollars for electric lighting, including bringing electricity and building a bank, as well as a road into the Cahuenga Pass. The lighting ran for several blocks down Prospect Avenue. Whitley’s land was centered on Highland Avenue. His 1918 development, Whitley Heights, was named for him.
Erected in 1923, the world-famous Hollywood sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and served to advertise a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The developers of Hollywoodland, Woodruff and Shoults, paid $21,000 to have the thirteen 5oft high by 30ft wide letters built on the hillside of Mt. Lee, facing south. They also installed some 4,000 light bulbs that made the sign flash “holly”, “wood”, “land” individually and then the entire sign would light up. During the 1940’s the letter “H” was destroyed when the drunken caretaker of the sign lost control of his Ford Model A car and crashed into it from the road above (the driver survived uninjured). In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce paid to rebuild the sign removing the letters “land” to spell out just “Hollywood”; they also opted not to replace the light bulbs due to the cost of operating them. In 1978, a public campaign led by Hugh Hefner raised almost $250,000 to rebuild the sign out of steel and concrete. Further refurbishment was done in 2005 by Bay Cal Commercial Painting, which donated the labor and supplies to strip and repaint the letters. The sign is located on steep, rocky terrain of Griffith Park and direct access to the sign is blocked and penalized with up to a $1000 fine.
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