In 1853, one adobe hut stood in Nopalera (Nopal field), named for the Mexican Nopal cactus indigenous to the area. By 1870, an agricultural community flourished. The area was known as the Cahuenga Valley, after the pass in the Santa Monica Mountains immediately to the north.
According to the diary of H. J. Whitley, known as the “Father of Hollywood,” on his honeymoon in 1886 he stood at the top of the hill looking out over the valley. Along came a Chinese man in a wagon carrying wood. The man got out of the wagon and bowed. The Chinese man was asked what he was doing and replied, “I holly-wood,” meaning ‘hauling wood.’ H. J. Whitley had an epiphany and decided to name his new town Hollywood. “Holly” would represent England and “wood” would represent his Scottish heritage. Whitley had already started over 100 towns across the western United States.
Original 480 acre map of H J Whitley’s property developed by his company, Los Angeles Pacific Boulevard and Development Company. Highland Avenue runs through the center of the property. The square at the lower right hand corner is the Whitley Estate and was not part of the Grand View development.
Whitley arranged to buy the 480 acres (190 ha) E.C. Hurd ranch. They agreed on a price and shook hands on the deal. Whitley shared his plans for the new town with General Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Ivar Weid, a prominent businessman in the area.
Glen-Holly Hotel, first hotel in Hollywood, at the corner of what is now called Yucca Street. It was built in the 1890s.
Daeida Wilcox learned of the name Hollywood from Ivar Weid, her neighbor in Holly Canyon (now Lake Hollywood) and a prominent investor and friend of Whitley’s. She recommended the same name to her husband, Harvey. H. Wilcox who had purchased 120 acres on February 1, 1887. It wasn’t until August 1887 Wilcox decided to use that name and filed with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office on a deed and parcel map of the property. The early real-estate boom busted at the end of that year.
By 1900, the region had a post office, newspaper, hotel, and two markets. Los Angeles, with a population of 102,479 lay 10 miles (16 km) east through the vineyards, barley fields, and citrus groves. A single-track streetcar line ran down the middle of Prospect Avenue from it, but service was infrequent and the trip took two hours. The old citrus fruit-packing house was converted into a livery stable, improving transportation for the inhabitants of Hollywood.
The intersection of Hollywood and Highland, 1907
Newspaper advertisement for Hollywood land sales, 1908
HJ Whitley is the man standing on the left wearing a bowler hat. The building at the left is the Hollywood Hotel on the corner of Highland Ave. and Hollywood Blvd.
The Hollywood Hotel was opened in 1902 by H. J. Whitley who was a president of the Los Pacific Boulevard and Development Company. Having finally acquired the Hurd ranch and subdivided it, Whitley built the hotel to attract land buyers. Flanking the west side of Highland Avenue, the structure fronted on Prospect Avenue, which, still a dusty, unpaved road, was regularly graded and graveled. The hotel was to become internationally known and was the center of the civic and social life and home of the stars for many years.
Whitley’s company developed and sold one of the early residential areas, the Ocean View Tract. Whitley did much to promote the area. He paid thousands of dollars for electric lighting, including bringing electricity and building a bank, as well as a road into the Cahuenga Pass. The lighting ran for several blocks down Prospect Avenue. Whitley’s land was centered on Highland Avenue. His 1918 development, Whitley Heights, was named for him.