HOLLYWOOD’S BEACH STANDS ON ITS OWN MERIT
Recently I came across some advertising that stated the original Hollywood Beach Hotel was on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Furthermore, this ad went on to indicate that all the beaches in Broward County are in Fort Lauderdale. This is startling news–Where was I when Broward County became “Fort Lauderdale”?
On the other hand, a current poll of US beaches by Trip Advisor lists Hollywood’s beach at #20, South Beach at #21, and Fort Lauderdale not at all. Higher ranked Florida beaches were chiefly on the west coast. So why does anyone think Hollywood has to pretend it’s actually some other place?
Postcard, mid-20th century, Hollywood beach with the Sheldon Hotel.
As a Hollywood historian, I’d like to say that Hollywood’s beach was developed as an ocean resort area before Fort Lauderdale’s or any other beaches in Broward or Dade Counties. Most of the smaller towns with ocean frontage were settled by farmers who stayed inland, having no particular use for sand and salt water. Occasionally they would row across the Inland Waterway for a day of fishing and probably wading, but permanent structures on the ocean side were few, like the Coast Guard Station in Fort Lauderdale. Prior to 1920 Fort Lauderdale’s newspaper proclaimed their city to be the “Gateway to the Everglades.” When Carl Fisher developed Miami Beach, his chief buildings faced Biscayne Bay, as shown in the postcard below.
But J. W. Young had a different idea for his dream city, christening it “Hollywood By-the-Sea.” As soon as he could get across the Inland Waterway to the barrier island, he put in the first west-east road (today, Johnson Street).
In the top photo, below, the men on the barge are identified as Connie Heath, Bill May, Tony Mickelson and Oliver Attaway. The bottom photo is looking east to the ocean. The white strip is today’s Johnson Street, the first road put in on Hollywood’s beach barrier island. Both photos are from 1922.
Courtesy Tony Mickelson Estate and Hollywood Historical Society.
After rocking the future Johnson Street, Young immediately began the Broadwalk. There was nothing else on Hollywood beach when Young had these advertising photos made. Shops and the swimming Casino would follow. Clearly his plan was to open the ocean front for everyone to enjoy.
The next photo, from his Hollywood Reporter, calls it the Broad Beach Walk, and adds that “electric light clusters” would soon be added along the walk.
By 1925 the Broadwalk was as busy as it is today. The view below is looking toward Johnson Street, with the swimming Casino tower at the left, and center, the Tangerine Tea Room (it was Prohibition, don’t forget!).
Panoramic postcard photo, Mickelson Collection, gift of Claudina Lopez
Left, from an advertising flyer, c. 1922
Right, sheet music cover for song by Phil Vitsky, c. 1925
postcard of Harding Circle, now Young Circle north side facing U.S. 1, with sign reading “Hollywood by the Sea,” 1940s.
JANUARY-FEBRUARY NEWS FROM THE PAST – 1920s
At right, the Royal Palm Yacht Basin, with the Brickell mansion center left, on the south shore of the Miami River. The hotel would be off to the right.
At left is the earlier hotel built by Flagler, the Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach. Like this one, the Royal Palm was an enormous wood frame structure. Miami’s grand edifice continued to thrive until it was damaged by the hurricane of 1926.
Young on his first trip to Florida (to Miami, precisely) may have stayed there, or at the Flamingo Hotel built by Carl Fisher, seen above.
Fisher and his wife Jane first came to Miami, by train, in February, 1910. They bought a house on Brickell Avenue, which was then lined with private homes, and called “Millionaires’ Row.”
Speaking of millionaires, on January 25, 1919, Paris Singer opened his private Everglades Club in Palm Beach, in an influential building designed by Californian Addison Mizner, a structure that references the basilica-form Spanish Mission churches of old California, with its swooping parapet and bell tower, central hall area, and opposite end crowned with another tower.
On January 2, 1920 Young and his friend and business partner Edwin Whitson came by train from Indianapolis to Miami as Young was seeking land to develop somewhere on a shore. According to Myrtle Anderson Gray, later his secretary, Young came to Dania, settled by Danish-American farmers and incorporated since 1904, where he hired someone to drive him over the empty land to the south of Dania, spending about two weeks exploring the future Hollywood. During this time Young purchased five Miami subdivisions in Allapattah. Sale of this property helped fund his purchase of land for his future city.
In January 1921 Young’s first survey crew began work, having arrived in December, 1920. According to Tony Mickelson, who was part of that crew, others included Alexis Kononoff, Connie Heath, also two black men, J. Motmore and T. Major.
At right, city surveyor Mickelson stands where Young’s city began. The land Young purchased for his city doesn’t greatly resemble Miami of 1920
But by February of 1922, streets were in in the Central area (now Downtown and Parkside), and that month marked the opening of both the electric power plant and the water plant.
Left, Hollywood Electric Light & Power Plant, at the corner of Buchanan Street and 21st Avenue, 1922. Pioneers to Hollywood were treated to a blaze of artificial lights, with street lights, in the hotels and houses, even decorating building exteriors. No roughing it with candles in central Hollywood!
Right, Hollywood Water Plant, 1922, between Taylor and Polk Streets on 18th Avenue. In its early years, Hollywood had water from its own aquifer.
To keep up with demand Young hired C. B. Moody away from the Miami Electric Light and Power Company to manage his utilities. Moody later became one of Hollywood’s mayors.
On February 16, 1922 after the Harry Bastian company had erected 15 houses John Brown was hired to keep an eye on them while they were under construction. These homes, mostly still standing, may be seen in the blocks from Van Buren to Washington Streets, and from U.S. 1 to 21st Avenue.
Hollywood houses built from 1922 to about 1924 are easily recognized by their distinctive parapets, or roof lines, modeled after California Spanish Mission churches, an architectural style preferred by J. W. Young.
At that time in 1922, Brown lived in a bunk house Young had built for workers on the south side of today’s Young Circle as they laid in the streets and sidewalks. Knowledge of this temporary workers’ quarters perhaps has given rise to the silly story that Young hired a prominent architect and built the Great Southern Hotel “for workers.” As it happened, the bunk house burned to the ground in February, 1923.
For the record, there were four families already living in the area before it became Hollywood. They were the Ben Jones family at the corner of today’s U.S. 1 and Sheridan Street (not part of Hollywood then), and the Ed Hensons who lived next door, By the FEC railroad tracks lived Walter and Lulu Altman, just north of today’s McKinley Street on 21st Avenue, probably on railroad property since Altman had been hired by the Florida East Coast railway in 1920 to operate the water pump that serviced the steam engines. Finally, there were Fred and Albertine Zirbs, who established a farm just north of today’s Johnson Street at north 17th Court in 1910.None of those houses are standing now. But one more home should be mentioned that is in Hollywood today, and this is the 1914 two-story frame house on north 58th Avenue. It was built by a member of the Bryan family and it is believed that at that time the land was an Everglades hammock, reachable by water.
In February, 1922, Young also began his newsletter, The Hollywood Reporter, a significant source today for information about Hollywood from 1922 to 1926. Our thanks to the late William Schaaf for sharing his beautiful copies of this important source with me.
At left, cover of one of the Reporters with the architect’s drawing of the future Hollywood Golf & Country Club.
The architect was Martin L. Hampton.
The following year a plan dated January 29, 1923, drawn by F. C. Dickey, Engineer, is of the proposed Lake Section of Hollywood “By the Sea.” It covers Washington to Johnson Streets, and the area that would be reclaimed from marsh, east of about 12th Avenue.
In the drawing (I don’t have a photo of that drawing) each lake has an island. Tent City is shown on the beach, but the Beach Hotel is only a sketch.
At this time, work on creating the two lagoons, North and South Lake had begun, dredging out the lakes to raise submerged land around them. It would be over a year before land had settled enough for homes to be built.
Tent City, also called Beach City, was a “resort under canvas,” frame structures with canvas tops, housing 100 or more. The camps had electricity, running water, and maid service.
Courtesy Hollywood Historical Society
As the architect Young hired Martin L. Hampton, who had worked with Addison Mizner in Palm Beach. The building was set at an angle to the street corner. Its entrance with covered porte cochere faced southwest. Hampton followed Young’s edict that Hollywood’s buildings should recall the California Mission style–note the roofline of the porte cochere. At the same time, Young seems to have been taken with the quirky irregularities of fellow Californian Mizner’s Palm Beach buildings. For example, in the Country Club, everything is off-center, the left wing doesn’t match the right wing, and there are a number of different roof styles.
This view at right of the famous glass brick dance floor was taken from the central tower. There were colored lights under the glass brick, and overhead at night, stars and the moon.
Here is another view of the dance floor, from eye level, with a group of visitors in winter coats. Ttaken by J. L. Conrad of Beaver, PA the photo appeared in the Reporter.
And here the party is in full swing, the floor filled with elegant couples said to have come from as far as Miami and Palm Beach, the women dressed in shimmering, form-fitting beaded dresses and cloche hats, the men in black tie. Due to Prohibition, no liquor was served, but rumor has it that there were bottles of hooch hidden under the tables…
Photo Courtesy Hollywood Historical Society
The circle in the foreground became the site of a hotel, which from the 30s to the 60s was the winter quarters of Riverside Military Academy, except during World War II when it was taken over by the US Navy for an aerial gunnery training school. Today this is Presidential Circle.
Note in the far distance to the east (top of photo) the shiny effect of the water still draining from the Lake Section.
To start up this bank, Young had the support of Edward C. Romfh, founder and president of the 1st National Bank of Miami.
Both banks were erected on the northwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and 20th Avenue. This bank, though unfortunately modified, still stands.
Photos courtesy of Hollywood Historical Society.
in February, 1924 the first permanent home was built on the beach, by J. L. Frank from Buffalo It stood at about 325 Buchanan Street until just recently. No sooner had I located it, than it was gone before I could get a photo of it. But there is one more bit of visual proof, for this two-story CBS structure appears in a 1924 aerial photo of the beach.
And for more myth-busting: there were no rock cabins built by hermits on Hollywood beach before 1922–or after that date, either. Although I do love the mental picture of that mythical hermit rowing out to the reef day after day and bringing back a chunk of coral to eventually build his cabin!
January, 1926 Young’s major opus, the hotel on Hollywood beach, opened at the eastern end of Hollywood Boulevard. It was first called Hollywood Hotel, but soon became the Beach Hotel. Here is a splendid view of the west facade, and a closeup of the elegant entrance with grand Italian-style switchback staircse. Young succeeded in building a hotel larger than Flagler’s. Furthermore, this is made from poured cement. It has stood through hurricanes including the one in 1926, chiefly suffering only broken windows. It must have been extremely painful to watch the DOT run a bridge ramp over the gardens and across the hotel’s facade, a thumb to the nose not only to Young’s vision, but really to Hollywood in general. A textbook example of how to destroy a “City Beautiful.”
Here are two views of the Atlantic Ocean facade of the Hollywood Beach Hotel.
The drawing is from Young’s advertising, about 1926-27. Apparently he had decided to call this one the “Hollywood Hotel,” so the original Hollywood Hotel that overlooked Circle Park became the Park View Hotel.
Another hand-tinted postcard, probably based on a photo of the hotel from the ocean, c. 1926-27.
Early imaginary sketches of the beach suggest that there would be a pier in front of the hotel, but this was never constructed.
On January 4, 1926, Dania officially became part of Hollywood. (It would secede later.)
That same month, the Dania Beach Hotel opened, designed by Francis Abreu, but recently demolished.
January 8, 1927 the first passenger train on the western tracks in Hollywood, operated by the Seaboard Air Lines, made a passenger stop.
At that time the station, located as it still is at Hollywood Boulevard and 30th Avenue, was the only structure in a vast empty area west of 28th Avenue, with the exception of the Hollywood Hills Inn on the third circle. Trains on these tracks are now operated by Amtrak and Tri-rail.
At first this was called Port Hollywood or Port Florida, or as the Fort Lauderdale Daily News had it, Port Bay Mabel. Today it is Port Everglades, operated by Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. This view looks north east. The President who technically opened the port was President Calvin Coolidge.
In January, 1934, the seriously-ill founder of Hollywood, Joseph W. Young, returned from New York to his residence on Hollywood Boulevard, with the hope that the warmer weather would improve his health.
He was gratified to see ships in the port that he had brought into being, and to enjoy his handsome home. But on February 26, 1934, at age 51, he died.
At right, Joseph W. Young, Jr., 1882-1934, Hollywood’s visionary founder.
A year later, January 1935, the city commission changed the name of the downtown circle park from Harding Circle to Joseph W. Young Circle, as it is today.
On the ocean, the Beach Hotel seen at left, became a training site for officers including air navigators. This photo is one of the classes of graduates in 1943.
This copy of their newsletter, The Muzzle Blast, is in the Hollywood Historical Society’s archives.
It is dated August, 1943, and shows a shirtless young man atop the training gun (top, far left). This would soon change.
In 1942 the U.S. Navy established the WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. These women were not stenos–those already existed, as Yeomen-F. The WAVES were given basic training then became part of the Navy. One position for which these women were trained was to take over the training of Navy air gunners.
On February 3, 1944 the first 20 trainers arrived, in the form of WAVES Specialists “G,” the G standing for Gunner. During the following year, the contingent of women gunnery trainers (WAVES) grew to more than 100.
*****I am currently working on a book about the WAVES who were stationed in Hollywood in WW II, including the women ensigns who were trained with their male fellow officers at the Beach Hotel, and the Specialists G at the Riverside campus, including the unnamed young woman in the photo above. So if you know of any women who were part of this group, PLEASE CONTACT ME! *****
Following that war, the Navy decommissioned the Naval Air Station they had established on the former Merle Fogg Airport. In January, 1948 Broward County assumed control of what is today the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. This photo shows the main runway going east toward the ocean. At the far top left is Port Everglades.
HOLLYWOOD NEWS AFTER 1950
Now, since I know many of you are highly interested in what happened in Hollywood after 1950, here are some gleanings from the January, 1956 issues of our Hollywood Sun-Tattler.
January 5, 1956: A charter meeting of a South Broward historical society will be held at the Chamber of Commerce. Ella Jo Stolberg Wilcox will be chairman of the meeting. It would be another two decades before Hollywood residents formed our Hollywood Historical Society. And the Broward County Historical Commission, also founded in the 70s, was disbanded this past year
Many of us had Mrs. Watkins as a teacher first at Hollywood Central in 8th grade social studies, then at South Broward High School.
That same front page announced the death of former mayor Lester Boggs at only 59. Boggs was a long-time member of the city commission, and served as Hollywood’s Mayor from 1943 to 1947 and again from 1949 to 1953.
Jack Valentine’s was a Fort Lauderdale nightclub, but in the Fifties they laid down an ice sheet and put on ice shows with professional skaters. Judging from the awkward position of the skter’s raised leg, figure skating has come a long way since 1956.
January 12 and January 23, 1956
Top house in the photo was selling for $15,750.
These houses were featuring “Florida rooms,” a sort of family room. They also had utility rooms. If these were special rooms set aside for doing laundry and ironing, I would certainly like one today.
The house pictured at right is in Lawn Acres, with the given address of Hollywood Boulevard and 56th Avenue.
Houses in this section were selling for $14,000 to $22,000.
Those would be good buys today.
So how about this in the January 19, 1956
Sawyer Motors had a huge auto sales lot in Hollywood in the early 1920s. At that time they sold Fords and Lincolns.
Flamingo Groves had been established in Davie in January of 1927 by Floyd and Jane Wray and Frank Stirling. The Wrays had a beautiful home in Hollywood, and a weekend house on an original Everglades hammock on their grove property. The house and hammock, now part of Flamingo Gardens, may be toured today for a taste of south Florida in the Twenties.
For an interesting history of Flamingo Groves/Gardens go to http://flamingogardensblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-first-tree-was-planted-88-years-ago.html
Finally, what would our area be without young women swimming in tanks, performing as mermaids.
So, instead of an aquarium with tropical fish, you might have a tank in your home with a mermaid in it as your hobby.
This was January 23, 1956.