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Vintage Photos of Early Hollywood

Old Hollywood Photographs

Hollywood’s history can best be told in the viewing of historical photos on the website.  There are more than 12,000 photographs in the collection and cover more than 90 subject categories, including, the Hollywood Canteen, studios, restaurants/nightclubs and the Hollywood sign.


Founding of Hollywood

Harvey Wilcox, and his wife, Daeida, moved from Topeka Kansas to Los Angeles in 1883. The Wilcoxes bought an elegant home at 11th and Figueroa Street , the most fashionable neighborhood in that era, eventually selling it for a profit and moving to Hill Street. With his wife as advisor, Harvey opened a real estate office on Spring Street. Later the Wilcox es sensed another land boom. With two transcontinental rail lines to Los Angeles, price wars had lowered the cost of train travel. The couple particularly enjoyed the Cahuenga Valley, with its sea Vista and refreshing breezes. Hiking in sheltered canyons approved and added pleasure. Daeida narrowed their choice to the Grove of established big trees at pass road and Prospect Avenue. They bought John Bower’s tract.

Combining acreage from four separate parcels, Wilcox eventually owned from Gower Street to quickly Avenue and Sunset Boulevard to Franklin Avenue, excluding the Mascarel tract. Using Chinese and Mexican labor, he began clearing the land, staking it according to the four points of the compass. Glowing before him like a new civilization, his subdivision was a God-fearing suburb with a country club feel, quite homeowners and a small commercial area to support them. The two most necessary things in Harvey Wilcox subdivision were trees and the prohibition of alcohol.

In 1886, Mrs. Wilcox traveled east and while she was on the train she met a lady who spoke of her Chicago home, which she called Hollywood. Mrs. Wilcox was so enamored with the name, that she returned home, and prevailed on her husband to call their little farm Hollywood. The following year, Mr. Wilcox recorded a subdivision tract map, which he called Hollywood. The map laid the streets out in a grid pattern, which showed a street, running east to west, which he called Prospect Avenue.

In 1891, Harvey Wilcox passed away. After her husband's death, Mrs. Wilcox managed her vast real estate holdings with rare judgment and donated several parcels of land to religious and community organizations. She married Philo Judson Beveridge.

Cahuenga Valley

Before 1903, this area was known as the Cahuenga Valley. Lying just south of the Santa Monica mountain range, the Cahuenga Valley consisted of citrus groves, ranches, small farms and single-family residences scattered throughout the community.


Paul DeLongpre

One of Hollywood's earliest and most famous residents was the French painter, named Paul DeLongpre.  At an exhibition of his paintings in Los Angeles, he met Mrs. Wilcox Beveridge. When he spoke to her about his wish for a house in Hollywood, Mrs. Wilcox acted swiftly and sold him 365 foot lots on the west side of Cuenca Avenue, one block north of Prospect Avenue.

DeLongpre built his home, studio and guesthouse in 19 one. A year later, the artist offered Mrs. Wilcox three of his paintings for the corner lot at Prospect Avenue so he could enlarge his flower garden. It was here that he painted most of his paintings. While only a few tourist visited the Cahuenga Valley prior to the turn-of-the-century, now literally thousands flock each year to see the famous artist, his home, and his beautiful paintings.


The City of Hollywood

Over the course of the next few years Hollywood’s population began to grow, and by the turn of the century the small community boasted of a population of just more than 500 people. Within three years the Cahuenga Valley had a population of more than 700 residents. In mid-1903, several Hollywood residents advanced the proposal to make Hollywood and independent city. They felt that their taxes were not being spent for the betterment of the community, so they felt that by incorporating, they had better control over their destiny. In the middle of August 1903, with only the men voting, Hollywood Incorporated as “City of Hollywood.” The boundaries went from Normandy Avenue on the east, Fairfax Avenue on the west, Sunset Boulevard on the south and the hills to the north. The first act of the city attorney was to choose the poinsettia as the official flower. The new city motto was “harmony and economy.” The eight member Hollywood board of trustees enacted several laws and ordinances including the prohibition of the sale of liquor except by a pharmacist, prohibition of the writing of bicycles and tricycles on sidewalks, and the prohibition of operating slot machines, card machines, or other mechanical devices in the city of Hollywood, for money or other articles of value.


Seven years after the residence of Hollywood voted for incorporation, there was severe uncertainty about municipal facilities and the supply of water. As a result, the residence voted to have the city of Los Angeles Annex the city of Hollywood. The last official act of the Hollywood Board of Trustees was to change the name of Prospect Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard.


Movies Come To Hollywood

Less than one year after Hollywood was annexed to the city of Los Angeles, the nesters film company arrived in Hollywood with the intention of making movies. They rented the former Blondeau Tavern, on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Avenue, and immediately began altering the structure and property into a movie studio. The small troop of actors, director and support personnel had traveled west from Bayonne, New Jersey, where their main studio was located. Because almost all movies were made out of doors, it became difficult to make movies during the wintertime. The small Hollywood troupe of actors quickly realized that Southern California was ideal for making movies all year round. The climactic conditions were ideal for making movies and the geography and terrain offered a wide variety of film locations, where movies could be made.

The word quickly filtered back east that Southern California, and particularly Hollywood, was ideal for making movies. It wasn't long before other small film production companies migrated west to settle in Hollywood. These small production companies, also, set up small studios on Sunset Boulevard, in and around the Nestors Studio. Within three years there were more than 15, small independent film companies operating in Hollywood.

The largest collection of vintage and historical photos of Hollywood are in the collection. All of the photographs are available for purchase.

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