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Hollywood School For Girls

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Hollywood School For Girls

Sometime in 1909, the Hollywood School for Girls was founded by Sophie Shephard Hogan at Prospect Ave (now Hollywood Blvd.) and Wilcox Ave. An August, 1910 advertisement that appeared in the Los Angeles Times read:

 HOLLYWOOD SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

Boarding and Day School

Primary, Intermediate, College

Preparatory and general

Courses. Music, Art Domestic

Sciences.

The school offers a practical

Training, seeks the highest

Individual attainment in

Health, efficiency and character.

Outdoor study, recitations and

Physical training. Sleeping porches.

Fall term begins September 26.

SOPHIE SHEPHARD HOGAN, Principal

Telephone 57504

Unfortunately, there’s almost no information about the Hollywood School For Girls, until August 7, 1911, where an advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  This ad is the first documentation that the school was move to Sunset

Blvd. & Hay Ave.

Sometime between July and September 1915, the school was moved to 1749 N. La Brea Ave.  It appears that Sophie Hogan was still the school’s principal. 

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New Owner

In 1915, Louise Knappen relinquished her interest in Graham Hall School For Girls in Minneapolis, Minn. and moved to Hollywood where she secured the property of the Hollywood School For Girls. 

In 1917, Louise Knappen married architect, William Lee Woollett.

Evelyn F. Scott, who attended the Hollywood School For Girls, wrote the book, “Hollywood When Silents Were Golden”.  The following is an excerpt from that book. 

“The Hollywood School For Girls was without glitter. Mr. Woollett taught a course on the history of art, but the school never looked as if it had an architect. La Brea Ave. was a residential street, barely scarred with duplexes, and the school's main house was a residence. It was a respectable two-stories, far from stately, able to accommodate some half a dozen borders, provide 10 or 20 hot lunches, and hold half the student body (which from kindergarten through high school numbered not more than 100 girls).

Mrs. Woollett kept her office in the last entry of the residence. Here, at crises in exams or student government, you had your confrontation. Though mothers who knew her well found her gentle and compassionate, she looked rather like a Roman senator and made me ill at ease. I avoided the office and adored the school.

If you arrived by car you were dropped off under Acacia trees at the main gate. There was, in fact, no other gate. There was no real gate, for that matter, just a space in the wall for carriage drive, which led straight back past the main house. This was our access to the classrooms at the rear, and a forum and playground as well.

As you walked up, leaving the acacias behind, the Jacaranda on the lawn, and the Rose Garden by the house, you would cover 100 yards before you thought you were inside a school. Then you came upon a sculpture studio, the music department, the lower classes buildings, the chemistry lab, the study areas, the history and language divisions, the newspaper ready room, the athletic field, and the high school auditorium.

What made up for the casualness, the occasional discomfort, even shabby news, was that much of the teaching did go on out-of-doors, and much of the studying as well. Green benches ringed a huge pepper tree, which also had a tree-house available for those minus vertigo, and benches and tables stood beneath a giant pine tree. The teachers ranged from Jan and charming to gray-haired and challenging.

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Daughters of Celebrities

Many of the girls who attended the school were daughters of famous people in the entertainment business. Rosemary Conway was the daughter of Jack Conway who had been a leading man in many of D.W. Griffith’s movies.  Dorothy Sills was the daughter of Milton Sills who acted in many silent films. Cecil B. DeMille’s daughters, Cecilia and Katherine along with their cousins, Agnes and Margaret, attended the school. Irene Mayer, who graduated from the school in 1924, was the daughter of studio mogul, Louis B. Mayer.  Jesse Lasky's niece, Ruth, also attended the school along with the daughters of such entertainment notables, as Reginald Denny, Francis X Bushman and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  

However, not all girls, who attended the school, were daughters of people in the entertainment industry. Catherine Toberman, who was the daughter of real estate developer, Charles E. Toberman attended the school in 1923 and 1924.”

The schools monthly newspaper, Pine Points, was begun in 1920.

Boys In A Girls School

Whether Mrs. Woollett really had plans towards a mixed school, or this just happened, has been lost in the mist of history. Marriage had bestowed on her a ready-made family of two girls and a boy; perhaps this gave her an idea. At any rate, boys infiltrated the school, rather intermittently and at the bottom grades, where it was believed in those days that sex didn't matter much.

Three of the boys were either children of celebrities or later, themselves, became celebrities. Jesse Lasky's son, Jesse Lasky Jr. and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., son of Douglas Fairbanks attended the school along with Ben Alexander and Joel McCray, who later became quite famous. At one point, the number of boys attending the school reached about twelve.

Edith Head, Teacher

In the fall of 1921, Edith Clair Spare (later Edith Head) was hired as a French teacher at the Hollywood School For Girls. In order to earn more money, Edith was teaching art at the school, having exaggerated her qualifications , a subject at which she was not adept. To compensate, she enrolled in evening art classes at the Otis Art Institute, and would mold her own lessons for the girls on what she had learned the previous week in class.  From every indication, it appears she only taught there for about a year.

Harlean Carpenter (Jean Harlow)

Unquestionably, the most famous person to attend the Hollywood School For Girls, was Harlean Carpenter, who later changed her name to Jean Harlow. She entered the eighth grade at the age of twelve years and was thirteen years old at the end of the 1924 school year.  According to Evelyn Scott, the school's uniform never looked on anybody else the way it looked on her. She was elected vice-president of the eighth grade class. Harlean was quite blonde and it was speculated that Mrs. Carpenter bleached her daughter's hair. In the 1924 yearbook, her class photo shows her as much blonder than the other students. She and my mother, Catherine Toberman, were classmates but only attended the school for one school year (1923-1924), while attending the eighth grade.

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Financial Troubles

The school seemed to prosper until 1930. For whatever reason, which remains unknown, the school began to run into financial difficulty. In the August 12, 1931, Los Angeles Times article the school underwent a reorganization and incorporation on a nonprofit basis with an enlarged Board of Trustees assuming the business management, which left Mrs. Woollett free to devote her time to the academic activities of the school. According to the newspaper article, the enrollment was running close to 200 students, which included grades from nursery school through senior high. In a September 14, 1931 Los Angeles times article, Mrs. Woollett had been granted a sabbatical leave of absence to visit larger schools for girls in the country.

The largest collection of Hollywood School For Girls photos is on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. There are more than 90 subject categories from which to choose including, Hollywood Bowl, Gilmore Field and Santa Monica Blvd.

Apparently, the reorganization of the school was not successful.  A February 4, 1932, Los Angeles Times article read as follows: “Hopes that Hollywood school for girls, for nearly a quarter of a century prominent in local educational circles, may be rehabilitated before the opening of the school season next fall were expressed yesterday by leaders of the institution. The school was closed last week.

Liabilities are said to be approximately $15,000, with assets consisting of a possible equity in furnishings against which a chattel mortgage stands. The site and buildings some time ago passed into the hands of Mrs. Letha L. Storrow and Fred Keeler.

The school was founded in 1909. For the past 17 years Mrs. Louise Knappen Woollett has been its head. It was re-organized partly last fall and Mrs. Helen Everts became its acting head with Mrs. Storrow president of the board and Mrs. Woollett, one of the board members.

At its peak this school year, the institution had about 50 pupils and about 15 instructors. Attendance dropped off after the holidays and the school collapsed.”

Mrs. Louise K. Woollett passed away on August 4, 1955.

The largest collection of Hollywood School For Girls is on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. There are more than 90 subject categories from which to choose including, photos of the Hollywood Bowl, Santa Monica Blvd. and Ciro's nightclub. 

 

 

 

 

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