Prologue: Before 1920

This is about Hollywood, Florida and its people. Founded in 1920, from palmetto and pine ground, marshes and beaches, a planned city was created in six years along City In the East Marsh, Hollywood's future Lakes SectionBeautiful lines by Joseph Wesley Young, Jr. As my immediate family’s history is entwined with Hollywood‘s I plan to write and illustrate this blog with events from the lives of Young, and my parents and other key players, together with city events. We will go month by month, in the decades 1920, 1930, 1940, and early 1950.

Map of Hollywood, Florida c. 1930

My father, Anton Christopher Mickelson was one of the first 12 men sent by Young to begin the city. The photo at right, taken in 1921 shows Tony surveying the East Marsh, which would become Hollywood’s Lakes Section. As surveyor Tony Mickelson laid out the streets of Hollywood, and years later served as City Manager. My mother worked briefly for the Hollywood Land & Water Company, and in the 1930s founded the Outdoor Private School.

I was born there some years later. In 2005 I wrote a straightforward history of my city, Young’s and mine, called A Guide to Historic Hollywood, published by The History Press. This is a general survey, together with a street guide that describes interesting sites in the historic areas, an index, and bibliography. If you would like a printed copy of my book to carry along as you walk or drive the streets of Hollywood, my book is available at regular and online book stores (Barnes & Noble, Amazon), and at the Hollywood Historical Society.

If you have a connection to Hollywood, Florida, and would like to add what your family was doing in each time period, I hope you will join me.

Before arriving at 1920, we will look back to 1915 as prologue to how Hollywood came to be. In 1915 none of these players was in Florida, nor had they met each other. Joseph W. Young, Jr. (1882-1934) was a thirty-three year old husband, father, and real estate developer in Long Beach, California. His wife was the former Jessie Fay Cooke (1877-1955), a talented musician (piano and voice). Although she was five years his senior, her lovely voice and personality captured twenty-year-old Joseph W. Young, Jr. when he first moved to Long Beach in 1902,

Joseph Wesley Young, Jr. at 21, Long Beach CA 1902

and they were married on October 10, 1903. They had three sons, John, called Jack, Joseph Wesley III, called Tonce, and William, called Billy.

In those years at the turn of the 20th century, Long Beach was just developing as a resort area for Los Angeles, easily accessible by electric rail. Young went into buying and developing land with one of his wife’s relatives, and for about a decade he was highly successful. However, a major storm in 1914 caused a huge flood in Long Beach, wiping out most of the property developed by Young. In 1914 he had a real estate office at 108 West 6th, Room 314, Long Beach, but he is not listed in 1915, and in 1916 the listing is simply “Joseph W. Young (J. W. Young & Co.) residence Long Beach.” According to undocumented sources who knew J. W. and Jessie later, Young lost his business and became ill, and in 1916 he moved to Globe, Arizona to recover.

In 1915 Tony Mickelson was in the U. S. Navy. Born in Marseilles, Illinois in 1895 to Norwegian immigrant parents, he lost his mother in 1911, and a year or so later joined the Navy and was sent to the U. S. Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. In 1915 he sent three postcards to his father, his brother Harry, and his little brother Ed. One of these shows a “wireless class,” and another a “boat drill,” wooden lifeboats in formation with sailors at the oars.

Great Lakes Naval Station, IL, postcard dated May 1915

Trainees at Great Lakes Naval Station IL, 1915 postcard

Tony Mickelson would remain in the Navy until 1919. Of course, World War One, or the Great War had already begun in Europe, in August, 1914, but the U. S. did not enter until 1917.

(Note: for some reason the program wants to put Lamora’s photo here, but she was never in the Navy.  Perhaps if I fill the space with nonsense typing it will move her photos down where I want them.]

Mickelson family about 1915, Marseilles IL. L to R father Engelbrecht, Ed, Jennie, Nellie, Harry, and sailor Tony. Mother Anna had died. COLLECTION OF THE ESTATE OF TONY MICKELSON

[Lamora Gleason was not in this photo but she will appear below once I fill up the space with more babble. Just skip this part. I’m used to laying out books of photos by hand, not by stubborn but ignorant computer programs.

Sorry but I still have to babble along to get this text and photos where they belong. ]

Lamora Gleason, future wife of Tony Mickelson, was twelve in 1915 and living with her parents in their homes in Bennington and Woodford, Vermont.

Both photos, Lamora Gleason, Woodford VT c. 1916. COLLECTION OF THE ESTATE OF LAMORA MICKELSON

Lamora Gleason in middy blouse and scarf, Woodford VT c. 1915. PHOTO COLLECTION OF THE ESTATE OF LAMORA MICKELSON

In these photos, up in the Green Mountains on her father’s forest land, Lamora is wearing her hair in what she said was called “cootie garages,” long hair wound around her ears like Princess Laia’s.

She is also dressed in a fashionable middy blouse and scarf.

In 1915 the future Hollywood, Florida was simply another area of undeveloped land along Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Rail Way, partly covered with palmetto and Dade County pines. Other acreage was owned and farmed by families in Dania who raised mainly tomatoes and pineapples. The land that would become Hollywood actually had an owner, a Danian named Stephen M. Alsobrook. Alsobrook made news in the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel on August 13, 1915 when he “moved back to his old home in the suburbs of South Dania,” from Homestead, with his sons William and Charles. Probably this is the only time that Hollywood was referred to as a suburb of Dania. Alsobrook was generally considered “land poor” in that decade, doing more buying of land than farming. At this time he was planning to enclose about nineteen acres and raise Berkshire and Poland China hogs, and at the same time raise pumpkins and cassavas for feed. When Young bought this land five years later, there was no mention of pumpkins or cassavas.

Another man who appears in 1915 was the young architect Martin Luther Hampton (1890-1950), who had just begun his career, working in the firm of Miami architect August Geiger. They were designing the Beaux Arts Shopping Center in Palm Beach (now gone). Young would later hire Hampton to design a hotel, country club, and other structures for Hollywood.

In March of 1915 the city of Miami Beach was incorporated, and this bears directly on why J. W. Young went to south Florida and created a city. The major force behind the transformation of Miami Beach from sand island to popular resort was a famous man in his day, Carl Fisher (1874-1939). To summarize Fisher’s accomplishments by 1915: he was a millionaire owing to his manufacturing company Prest-O-Lite; he built the Indiana Speedway; he was one of the forces behind the creation of the Lincoln Highway which crossed the U. S. from east to west; and in 1915 the second interstate road that Fisher masterminded was opened. This was the north-south Dixie Highway, which connected Chicago to Miami by auto.

In the first two decades of the 20th century Carl Fisher of Indianapolis was a front-page newsworthy celebrity. Not only was he rich, he was also a daredevil, racing cars on his Speedway, balloon-racing, and operating speedboats in Biscayne Bay. Best of all, he was a babe magnet. When he married fifteen-year-old Jane Watts in 1909 he was being sued for breach of promise by an opera singer and former lover. Another old flame described Fisher as having the “most kissable lips.”  None of this would particularly have interested Joseph W. Young nor created Hollywood, Florida. The relevant part of Fisher’s frantic life was his development of Miami Beach as a resort for the wealthy, in the years from 1913 through to the Depression.  Bringing tourists of all kinds down to his Miami Beach was the impetus behind Fisher’s creation of the Dixie Highway.

To inaugurate the Dixie a motorcade was organized, with Carl Fisher driving a “big Packard touring car” starting off from Chicago on October 9, 1915, the anniversary of the Chicago fire., with 100 autos to start. This procession was assiduously followed in the press day after day all along the route. In fact, it was front page news down in Miami, side by side with descriptions of the war in Europe, in the Miami Herald, and also in the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel. There were stories about the dinners and speeches at each night’s stop and about people lining the new road to see the motorcade. The “worst roads along the entire trip” were between Daytona and Cocoa Beach, Florida where it took the travelers 15 hours from Jacksonville to Cocoa. Beginning in West Palm Beach local Florida drivers joined the motorcade driving south on parts of the Dixie that are still active roads today. After passing through Dania the cars turned west to cross the FEC railroad tracks and continued through what would become Hollywood to Hallandale, on the same Dixie Highway just west of the tracks that still exists today. In 1920 this would be the only road through Hollywood.

What Hollywood, FL looked like in 1920, just palmetto and pines.

By the time the motorcade reached Miami on October 25, 1915 it had swelled to over one thousand autos, with spectators lining the road from the Dade County line at about the site of Arch Creek’s natural bridge (which has since collapsed). Those who had driven the entire route were feted for several days following, with Fisher the most lauded. In fact, he was “held in princely esteem as principal boomer of this beautiful city,” that is, Miami. For those who think of covered wagons, men in overalls and women in poke bonnets and aprons, this wasn’t Miami in 1915. It was already a big city, for the time, with tall buildings, automobiles of course, men in three-piece wool suits, and women wearing the latest fashions.

Fisher continued to be front-page news in Miami and in his home city, Indianapolis. J. W. Young would arrive in Indianapolis in 1918 and immediately take note.

To be continued.

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3 Responses to Prologue: Before 1920

  1. Barry Stock says:

    Excellent information and photos, thanks. I’ve been trying to trace the age of the baobab trees in (the former) Young Circle Park, and your photo from 1935 shows me that they were not there at that time.

  2. L Feinberg says:

    Hi Joan-
    I would love to talk to you more about a travel guide I am working on. Perhaps you might want to write a small prologue in it? If you have a moment, please contact me through the website address I list in your form below. Thanks much.

  3. Che says:

    Great History lesson of where I grew up! Thanks!

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