FOUNDER’S DAY, AUGUST 4TH CELEBRATES JOSEPH W. YOUNG JR.
Beginning in 1935, August 4th has been a date celebrated in Hollywood as Founder’s Day to honor the birthday of Joseph Wesley Young, Jr., founder of the city. As I have written about Founder’s Day before, this time I’ll narrow down to some of the beginnings of both Young and his city. But before that, let me also mention Young’s beloved wife Jessie Fay Cook, who was born in July, 1877 in Wisconsin.
Joseph Young was probably born in Seattle, in 1882. As I discuss in my biography of Young,* there is no written document of his birth. Probably it was noted in a family Bible, but as Joseph was one of seven children, any such family document may have gone with one of his sisters. There is no state record for the simple reason that in 1882, Washington was not yet a state. The Territory of Washington was an incorporated territory of the U.S. from 1853 to November, 1889, when the State of Washington was admitted to the union. Joseph Young, Jr.’s presence first appears on an official record in the 1892 census, at age ten.
Among major events in Washington Territory around the time of Young’s birth was the arrival of the Northern Pacific railroad at Puget Sound in May, 1888, linking the Seattle area to the eastern U.S. Later, as a developer, Young made certain that all his properties had easy access to good transportation.
And one more event during Young’s youth in the Pacific Northwest, was the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1898 apparently Joseph Sr. and 16-year-old Jr. did give gold prospecting a try. They didn’t strike gold, and by 1900 Jr. had moved on to California.
Young Comes to Florida. Moving forward now to the Florida portion of J. W. Young’s life. He first came to Florida in January, 1920, with his wife Jessie and business partner Ed Whitson. Young was following the lead of millionaire entrepreneur showman, Carl Fisher, and others who were bitten by the urge to create beautiful tropical paradises. Looking around the Miami area, Young’s first step toward acquiring his dream site was to buy five commercial lots in Allapattah solely to develop then sell them, raising the cash he would use to buy his perfect site. In the summer of 1920 he returned alone and found his site, between two little farm towns in Broward County, Dania and Hallandale.
Young envisions a city. Now I will try to show how visionary Young was in creating his beautiful city. After seeing the undeveloped bit of scrub land, Young hurried back to his Indianapolis office with sketches he had made for the city plan.
At right is the engineer’s drawing of the beginning of Hollywood’s city plan, made from Young’s sketches, according to several who were close to Young in 1920. Quoting them in her book, Virginia TenEick says Young described his ideas: a wide boulevard extending from the ocean to the edge of the Everglades. Centrally located will be the business section. On each side of the [eventual] boulevard and opening into the canal [then the Inland Waterway] we will create two lakes, each with a turning basin for yachts. Material dredged from the lakes will be the fill to elevate the lowland then occupied by mangrove. We must plan large park areas and locations for schools and churches. A golf course, a large clubhouse or community building. This will be a city for everyone, from the opulent at the top of the industrial and society ladders to the most humble of working people.
Young’s own background would put him in the “working people” category.
He and Jessie moved every year from 1919 to 1925. This was their home in Indianapolis in 1920, a nice middle-class home for a family with three school boys. J. W. Young would soon thereafter become a millionaire.
To grasp the genius of Young’s vision, go back to the 1923 plat, above. The horizontal dark line near the center represents the two north-south arteries through the property, the FEC railroad and the Dixie Highway. (U.S. 1 was not in Hollywood before 1930.) Find the golf course, the open rectangle near center right. From its bottom edge (today’s 14th Avenue) up to the top of the plat was dry ground. From today’s 14th to 11th Avenues was tidal. The rest was simply watery marsh, to the Inland Waterway, and across to the totally empty beach barrier island.
Note that Young said he would “create the two lakes.” He meant just that. No lakes existed when he bought the land. Here are some photos to try to suggest the effort it took–and the vision–for Young to create his city from the property he had acquired.
First, here is where Young had his surveyors begin to lay out his city. This is my father, Tony Mickelson, head of Young’s surveying party, standing in the underbrush where Young planned that his wide boulevard would cross the Dixie Highway and the FEC railroad tracks. Mickelson looks west (where the tracks are), with his back to the east. This photo, taken in May, 1921, was published in the August, 1922 Hollywood Reporter.
Below is the same site just three years later, looking to the east from the railroad tracks down the Boulevard now lined with stores.
At left, downtown Hollywood in 1925.
Now, look again at the plat for early Hollywood (drawn by engineer Frank Dickey)
My father, who knew every inch of the land in early Hollywood, described it in a later interview: The elevation of the present Federal Highway (18th Avenue) was 10 feet, he said, with a gradual eastward slope to 14th Avenue. It was tidal from there [to 11th] and the rest was pretty much under water. The survey had to be accurate to insure proper drainage. The highest point was at the railroad tracks, 12 feet above sea level.
This aerial from April 1924 by Clyde Elliott shows what Young’s engineers were working with. Hollywood Boulevard begins just about center left and goes diagonally to the top. The dark horizontal line is the railroad and Dixie Highway. At upper right, the glare is from the watery East Marsh where the engineers were creating North and South Lake. The last road along the upper left is Johnson Street.
When Young bought the property, the future Johnson Street was a dirt track used by Dania farmers in their tomato fields. Young needed to create a road on this track to the canal (Inland Waterway) and cross from there to the beach island.
So by digging a channel alongside the track, his men were able to float a dredge along it, digging up rock to build up the roadbed for Johnson Street. I don’t know who the man is, standing on the dredge.
Here is another of Clyde Elliott’s aerial views from April, 1924. This looks east from directly over Hollywood Boulevard. Along the bottom run the Dixie Highway and FEC tracks. Circle Park (today’s Young Circle) is at the center, and the still-draining Lakes section is along the top. Harrison and Tyler Streets, nearly as wide as the Boulevard, have been rock-surfaced, as have some other streets, and buildings appear.
West of the Dixie Highway. In August of 1922 my father, Tony Mickelson, who knew where the best ground was, purchased two lots in the newly-formed Little Ranches, at what would be 2301 Polk Street. I believe he said that land there is 14 feet above sea level. As each lot was a half-acre, that gave him a full acre, and that’s where I grew up,
running free over the sandspurs, also periwinkles, lantana, and other flowers that grew wild in the empty lots and sheltered little rabbits and mice, and the occasional gopher tortoise.
This image is a continuation of the above view, showing the west side of the Dixie Highway, the area Young called the Little Ranches. The Boulevard is the wide white strip at left, and the Australian pines run along the FEC tracks. (They were apparently planted in 1915 by the Miami Woman’s Club.)
My father’s notes continue: From the FEC tracks westward to 28th Avenue were the Little Ranches. Then from 28th Avenue to the
Seaboard tracks [now Tri-rail and Amtrak] and beyond was all swamp, called the West Marsh. In the photo, left, note that the streets all end at the same place, 28th Avenue, where the marsh began. The Seaboard railroad wasn’t put in until 1926. Mickelson continued: the area was sometimes dry enough to grow tomatoes. From the present Orange Brook Golf Course north to the present Dania Cutoff Canal [C-10] was all swampy. So, to build a golf course [which later became Orange Brook [the dark patch at center right] a canal was dug, at Young’s expense, from
Here is the C-10 Canal today, taken from the Johnson Street bridge crossing.
Below is its source in the Orange Brook Golf Course, where a fresh-water spring rises above ground. It first created the West Marsh, and today it’s the source for the C-10 canal.
More about the Little Ranches area.
Riley Walter, another early pioneer who bought property in the Little Ranches, in a later interview described that part of Hollywood around 1922. He said that pineapples were grown in today’s City Hall Circle and surrounding area. Turpentine mangoes grew in the Polk-Taylor area, around 23rd Avenue. The site of the Orange Brook Golf Course was an abandoned farm, with an old barn still there in the early 1920s. And at 24th Avenue and Johnson Street, south side,there was a frame house where Young Company black laborers lived in 1922-23.
Young Landscapes His City to the East. Hollywood west of the Dixie Highway was allowed to grow more or less as it pleased after some palmetto was cleared, but east of the Dixie Young had the land cleared right down to the dirt, so that he could landscape it. He hired a professional horticulturalist, Charles Olson, from Rochester, New York, to grow and design beautiful plantings.
Here is the slat house, or greenhouse, where Olson planted seedlings and cuttings, of coconut and royal palms, pithecolobium and eucalyptus trees, hibiscus, pandanus, ixora, poinsettias, oleanders, bougainvillea, crotons, and numerous other plants, up to 100 varieties.
Young had Olson design plantings for the Circle, Golf Course, and along the sidewalks in the Central (Parkside) and Lakes Sections. Another reason for Hollywood’s lush garden look today.
More about August activities. On the beach, in the summer of 1923, Young began to extend his Broadwalk south from Johnson Street down to Washington Street. When the Broadwalk was begun, it ran north from Johnson to about today’s Sheridan Street, according to aerial views of the beach.
Tent City begins. Also in August, 1923, Young began planning Tent City, or Beach City, a “resort under canvas” to accommodate the huge throngs flocking to Hollywood, who wanted to stay on the beach before the Beach Hotel was built.
Young got the idea from similar tent colonies in Catalina, CA. They weren’t actually tents, but frame cabins with floors and canvas roofs, with electricity, running water, and maid service. They varied from two to four rooms, over 100 cabins by 1925. In this view, taken from the east by Bobby Yale, South Lake can be seen in the distance (center right).
The entire “city” was laid out in rows like streets. As the brochure, left, indicates, visitors were provided with a cafeteria (bottom right) and a lounge and library (bottom left).
Needless to say, Beach City did not survive the 1926 storm surge.
This was of special interest to Hollywood because only that previous March the president came for golf and lunch at the Hollywood/Park View Hotel, where he was apparently greeted by Young’s entire sales force. A tall man, here he is at the center of the photo. Upon his death, Young’s company changed the name of Circle Park to Harding Circle.
On August 20, 1924 a train on the Florida East Coast line made its first passenger stop in Hollywood, after Young had a beautiful and expansive station built to receive passengers.
Once completed, this Mission Revival style building was considered the most beautiful railway station along Florida’s east coast.
A Visitor Describes One of Young’s Sales Methods, Excursions.
In August, 1925 a W. A. Smith of Fort Lauderdale was toured around Hollywood then wrote about it. Like many others Smith was impressed by “this mammoth development,” and the magnitude of one of Florida’s largest real estate projects. He noted that every day some 350 people were brought to Florida on Hollywood excursions, coming by boat from New York and by special trains from other sections of the country. In Hollywood, he said, they were selling not only property but Florida good will.
From Jacksonville, Smith went on, special buses brought people down via the Dixie Highway. Photo at right, from Young’s Hollywood Reporter, shows passengers boarding one of Young’s 70 White buses in Jacksonville, under a sign that reads “Hollywood.”
Smith continued that once there passengers from the north were put up at the Great Southern Hotel, the Park View Hotel, and two hotels in Miami (Young couldn’t build hotels fast enough for all the visitors).
Here is the Park View Hotel with several tour buses lined up in front of it. It was just a short walk across Circle Park to the Great Southern Hotel.
Incidentally, this is one of my favorite photos, showing well-dressed tourists arriving in what appears to be an area of near-desolation, where salesmen hope they will buy property. Of course the beach was to the left, and the growing city down the Boulevard to the left, and apparently many such visitors did make purchases.
For what they might have seen would be street scenes such as this, around Monroe Street and 16th Avenue, with rows of well-designed houses on rock-covered streets with sidewalks, and little palm trees planted in the verge.
Landmark Woman’s Club. Finally, one more August event, and a landmark today. In August, 1927 the Hollywood Woman’s Club opened its clubhouse, built on land donated by J. W. Young.
Club President at the time of dedication was Mrs. Oliver (Mae) Behymer. Designed by architect Frederic A. Eskridge, the clubhouse is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hollywood Is a “Paradise Planned.” My title this month comes from the grand thousand-page tome by Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, and Jacob Tilove, Paradise Planned. The Garden Suburb and the Modern City. To my great pleasure, Hollywood is included among beautiful cities from around the world, with a reproduction of Young’s elegant city plan, several photos, and a half-page of text.
Unless otherwise identified, all images are courtesy of the Hollywood Historical Society. If you borrow these images for your own use, please credit the Hollywood Historical Society–and any other credits seen below the image. Thank you.