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Early Hollywood Bowl History

          ** Click Here To View Photos **

Early Hollywood Bowl History

Mrs. Christine Witherill Stevenson, heiress to the Pittsburg Paint fortune, arrived in Hollywood in 1918 with the idea of bringing culture to the community by presenting plays.  On May 25, 1919, she established the Theater Arts Alliance with several leading  citizens and set out to find a Hollywood location suitable for the presentations of outdoor theatrical performances.

They asked H. Ellis Reed and his father to search the Hollywood Hills to find a suitable location. "Finally, on a Sunday morning early in 1919, from a hill east of Cahuenga Pass, we spotted what we were looking for. We crossed the street (Highland Avenue) to a valley completely surrounded by hills. My enthusiasm knew no bounds. Immediately I wanted to test the acoustics," Reed continued. "I scaled a barbed wire fence, went up to the brow of a hill. Dad stood near a live oak in the center of the bowl-shaped area and we carried on a conversation. We rushed back to the Alliance with a glowing report."

With the aid of C.E. Toberman, the Theatre Arts Alliance bought 59 acres in the area known as Daisy Dell. Christine Wetherill Stevenson and her friend Marie Rankin Clarke each contributed $21,000 toward the $47,500 purchase price, with the remaining funds donated by other Alliance members.

Clarke each contributed $21,000 toward the $47,500 purchase price, with the remaining funds donated by other Alliance members.

Differences of opinion regarding the project's purpose led to Mrs. Stevenson's departure and the group's reorganization in 1920 as the Community Park and Art Association after buying out Stevenson and Clarke. (Stevenson then bought property across the street from the Bowl and built the Pilgrimage Theater, now the John Anson Ford Theatre.) Two prominent businessmen, F.W. Blanchard (president) and C.E. Toberman (vice president), headed the new Association.

However, it was the organization's secretary, Mrs. Artie Mason Carter, who was most active in promoting the project to the community, raising money, and developing the plans for a series of symphonic concerts. In fact, the permanent relationship between Hollywood Bowl and the Los Angeles Philharmonic began when the orchestra's founder, William Andrews Clark, Jr., agreed to Mrs. Carter's request that he donate the orchestra's services for the 1921 Easter Sunrise Service. Mrs. Carter is sometimes referred to as the "mother of the Bowl."

In anticipation of an actual concert season, physical improvements were made in the bowl.  The brush was cleared and some rough grading was done to the amphitheater.  Long wooden benches were installed.  In August 1921, the first concert got underway, with Professor Antonio Sarsi conducting the Los Angeles Muncipal Symphonic Band.  They were a hit.

To view the largest collection of the Hollywood Bowl is on the hollywoodphotographs.com web site. There are hundreds of photos and all are available for purchase.

 

 

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