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In Hollywood, They Got It Wrong

IN HOLLYWOOD, THEY GOT IT WRONG

The sign at 'Hollywood Historic Site No. 38' has its facts wrong, Brian Christie says. And he ought to know, he says, because the Christie Hotel, Hollywood's first 'modern' luxury hotel, was built by his great-grandfather, Haldane H. Christie.

Until now, it was believed the hotel was built and owned by Al and Charles Christie who were instrumental in establishing the first movie studio in Hollywood. 

If the historical record can be believed, Christie has rich family roots.

The 52-year-old West Hills resident has traced them back to 1740, when Capt. John Christie was born in Scotland and later migrated to the United States where he fought in the Revolutionary War.

The captain's son was captured by Native Americans in what is now Pennsylvania and held for 18 months until he was released for ransom, Christie said.

'They traded him for a couple of jugs of whiskey,' he said. 'Of course, how accurate that information is I don't know.'

Christie has good reason to be wary. For nearly two years, he has struggled to set the record straight about his great-grandfather's Hollywood history.

Haldane H. Christie was a pioneering auto parts manufacturer who started out producing axles and springs. In 1914, he sold his Michigan-based car top company to Henry Ford and moved to Los Angeles.

Here, he quickly became a real estate developer specializing in property along Hollywood Boulevard and in the Hollywood Hills.

In 1920, he commissioned construction of Hollywood's first 'modern' luxury hotel at the southwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place.

The eight-story Georgian Revival building with steeply pitched gable roofs was considered Hollywood's first skyscraper when it opened in 1922. Architect Arthur R. Kelly, best known at the time for his residential designs, created three brick towers connected to ground-level shops.

The Christie Hotel boasted amenities that included steam heat and individual bathrooms for each of its 100 guest rooms — a first for Hollywood. It quickly became popular with those in town to work in the area's fast-growing film industry as well as with locals.

Haldane Christie continued his ownership of the hotel and his realty work until his death in 1941 at age 71. In 1945, the place was renamed the Drake Hotel and later became the Hollywood Inn.  These days, the structure is owned by the Church of Scientology. The largest collection of Hollywood Hotel photographs is hollywoodphotographs.com

In 2009, Brian Christie drove his parents from their Victorville home to Hollywood to take a photograph of them in front of the former family-owned hotel.

That's when he saw the historic marker standing next to Hollywood Boulevard that identifies the hotel as 'Hollywood Historic Site No. 38.'

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