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History of Hollywood in Photographs


The Coming Of Wilcox

The history of Hollywood may have begun when, on February 1, 1887, Harvey Wilcox officially recorded the first real estate tract map, with the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. That tract map was named Hollywood. Wilcox and his wife, Daeida Wilcox, had moved to Southern California in 1883 from Topeka, Kansas, where Harvey had made his fortune in real estate. In 1886, they bought 120 acres of land in the Cahuenga Valley, located in the foothills to the west of the city of Los Angeles. A once-sleepy settlement founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Poricuncula, Los Angeles was by then expanding rapidly thanks to the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876.


Hollywood Is Named

Wilcox, who had lost the use of his legs as a child due to polio, envisioned the land as the perfect site for a utopian-like community for devout Christians, where they could live a highly moral life free of vices such as alcohol (Wilcox was a prohibitionist). In 1886, Daeida Wilcox traveled east and met a lady who spoke of her summer home near Chicago,  which she called Hollywood. When she returned to the Cahuenga Valley, she prevailed on her husband to call their small farm, “Hollywood.” Harvey laid out a street map of the settlement, at, what is now Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga Ave. At that time, Hollytwood Blvd. was called Prospect Ave. After filing the map with the L.A. County recorder’s office, Wilcox set about laying out Hollywood’s streets, made of dirt and lined with pepper trees.


Hollywood Becomes A City

As Harvey sold lots, Daeida worked to raise money to build churches, a school and a library. By 1900, nine years after Harvey Wilcox’s death, Hollywood had a population of 500. In 1903, the residents of the Cahuenga Valley petitioned the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors requesting the incorporation of the City of Hollywood. Sixty-two voters, of the 700, had signed the petition.  The election was held on November 14, 1903 at the Pass School. When the voting was completed, Hollywood became a city of the sixth class. Hollywood was connected to L.A. by a single-track streetcar running down Prospect Avenue; it took two hours to make the seven-mile trip, and service was infrequent. In 1910, the community of Hollywood voted to consolidate with Los Angeles due to an inadequate supply of water and municipal facilities. .


Movies Come To Hollywood

Shortly thereafter, the fledgling motion-picture industry began growing. All the film production companies were located in the east and in the Chicago area. When winter set in, the making of movies slowed considerably. So, they sought a place where they could make movies, all year long, without being hindered by bad weather. The first to settle in Hollywood and establish a studio, was the Nestors Film Co. who leased the former Blondeau Tavern at Sunset Blvd. & Gower St. Due to their success of filming, other movie companies migrated to Hollywood and Southern California, to establish studios. Within three years, there were more than fifteen movie studios operating in Hollywood. One of the largest collections of movie studio photos is on the website.

Population Increase

As moviemakers found their ideal setting in the mild, sunny climate and varied terrain of Southern California, Hollywood’s population began growing rapidly. With a population of 500 at the turn of the century, Hollywood had grown to 700 in 1903, to 4000 in 1909, and to 7000 in 1913, primarily because of the movie business. Hollywood Blvd. became lined with stores that sole the latest styles and fashions in merchandise. As the years went by, Harvey Wilcox’s dreams of a sober, conservative religious community faded even further into the background, as Hollywood became known throughout the world as the gilded center of an industry built on fantasy, fame and glamour.


Film Capitol Of The World

It wasn’t long after the film industry realized that Southern California, and particularly Hollywood, was the ideal location for making movies.  The weather was consistent all year long and the variety of scenery allowed for the making of all types of movies.  Within hours, a film crew could be at the beach or in the mountains making movies.  The first film companies that settled in Hollywood were small, independent companies.  Unless they had a way to have their films distributed, they were not able to succeed and went out of business.  Most of the movie studios, in Hollywood, were located on Sunset Blvd., just east of Gower St.  Because of the high mortality rate of these studios, the areas was commonly known as “poverty row.”

After several years, consolidation of motion picture studios took place and there were only a handful of major studios left.

Vintage Hollywood Photos

The largest collection of vintage Hollywood photos was started in 1970.  Originally known as the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection. However, with the creation of the internet, the company changed its name to  There are more than 12,000 photos in the collection and they cover over 90 subject categories.


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