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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14 Responses to Prologue: Before 1920

  1. Judy C says:


    Great start! Very interesting.


  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Che says:

    Great History lesson of where I grew up! Thanks!

  5. David Jarrett says:

    Joan, I enjoyed your posting on Hollywood.

    My connection to the town is several beach vacations there in the late 50’s & early 60’s. My father would rent a beach bungalow belonging to an elderly multimillionaire named Harry Harter, who also owned much of the land that was not owned by General Motors in our small city of Anderson, IN, (30 miles from Indianapolis.) The house was close to a bar & grill on the beach which served fantastic hamburgers. The beach was usually empty, and filled with shells.

    Harry Harter also reportedly owned a significant part of the downtown of Hollywood, yet the source of his original fortune was never really made clear to a 14-year-old. His wife had died in a south Florida harbor in a massive yacht explosion which was attributed to professional sailors failing to vent the bilges before starting the engines. When Harry died in Feb. 1964, he left his property in Indiana to his nephew and his land in Hollywood to his nurse.

    • David, that’s quite interesting. My research really just covers 1920 to maybe 1950, so I’m not up on Harry Harter, although the story you tell about him sounds familiar. At the Hollywood Historical Society we have several volunteer researchers who are currently working on the 2ns half of the 20th century in our Hollywood. I’ll pass your message on to them, for their research. As for Harter, I do know of a building called the Harter Building, a row of shops built in 1924-25. The building still stands, across from the southeast quadrant of Young Circle, on U.S. 1 It’s illustrated in a booklet we did, The Hollywood Historical Society Historic Downtown Walking Tour, which took place in November, 2015. The Historical Society sells this handsome booklet for $10. See their website.
      Thanks for posting, Joan

  6. Jeanne Van Pelt says:

    Joan, my mother remembers traveling from Cincinnati to Miami Beach as a child where her family stayed during the months January through March in the mid-late 1930s. She says she attended something called the Outdoor School where they had classes outside under umbrellas. Lessons were recorded in blue books which they took home to her school in Wyoming, Ohio when they returned home in the spring.. I cannot find anything online about it but noticed your mention of the Outdoor Private School. Could this be the same? Thank you for any information or photos you can provide.

    • Hello Jeanne, Thank you for your message. My mother opened the Outdoor School in 1938, in Hollywood. I’m pretty sure it was the only school with that name. As you describe, students from elsewhere could come with their lesson plans for several months, and be kept up with their class back home. There were also local kids in her school, who I run into all the time (the school continued to the 1960s, and had grades K-12) I haven’e seen any photos of classes under umbrellas. The Outdoor School had 3 sides, open to the south, and classes were held there. Of course there was a large open playground, as well. It’s possible that some other teacher held classes under shade umbrellas, but that would not be the actual “Outdoor School.” I always wondered who the men were who could take 3 months off in the winter to spend in Florida, so what did your
      grandfather do?
      I keep thinking of doing more about private schools in Hollywood before 1950, but haven’t gotten around to that. So any photos or recollections from my readers are welcome! You can also reach me at

      • butch ayers says:

        I attended first grade at Outdoor Woodford Hall school in Hollywood around 1966-67. I believe it was on Polk Street. Is this the Outdoor School you are referring to? Thanks.

  7. Sherri O'Hara says:

    i was at outdoor woodford hall around 1957 for many years in grade school what a great experience it was do you have any pictures took art from herbert tulk other teachers mrs erdos ms clark remember sitting on lawn and grandma reading uncle wigley in the mornings

  8. Mark Wallace says:

    I believe that I attended the Outdoor Private School (I remember it as the “Outdoor School”) in the mid-to-late 1950s. My parents would bring us to Florida from upstate New York for about a month each year, starting with our school’s Christmas vacation. We stayed at the Hollywood Beach Hotel. As this was a longer time than my school’s vacation, my mother would get lesson plans from my teacher in New York, and I would work on them at the Outdoor School. That part is similar to what Jeanne Van Pelt describes above. My memory of the physical structure is that it had a roof, but was open on at least one side. I remember sitting at my desk in the classroom, with the students facing
    the teacher, and behind her it was entirely open with a view of, perhaps, a field or park.

    My memory of going to school there is dim, but pleasant.

    It was the first time I studied the French language, as we had no such class at my school in New York.

    • Hello Mark, How nice of you to post your memories about my mother’s Outdoor School on Polk Street in Hollywood. She also called it Outdoor Woodford Hall. It was as you recall 3-sided, open on the south with open windows on the north that could be closed if a cold north wind blew. The concept of an open-air school was popular from about 1900 to the mid-century, as being more healthful than closed buildings. But my parents might have just built it that way because they themselves liked the open air. There were several private schools in Hollywood that tutored visiting students like you. I always wondered how the parents could leave their jobs for months to visit Florida! The Outdoor School also had full time local children, mostly in the elementary grades but a few students went all they way through high school there. When you were there I wasn’t as I had by then left for college.
      I work with the Hollywood Historical Society and we would be very interested in your recollections of a month at the Hollywood Beach Hotel! The rooms, the dining room, the entertainment–anything you could tell us would be wonderful. You can email me at if you like.
      Thanks for posting,

      • Mark Wallace says:

        I’m afraid I won’t be of much help with the hotel. Rooms – no memory; dining room – no memory; entertainment – at first I thought I had no memory. But then a name (part of one) popped into my mind. The hotel had an entertainment director for visiting children, and every day after school she would lead us in activities, mostly near the pool. We called her “Mrs. G.”

      • Mark Wallace says:

        A younger brother just told me that the reason I didn’t remember the rooms or dining at the Hollywood Beach Hotel is that we didn’t stay there. Because we were in Florida for two or three months (longer than I remember, but there it is), our parents rented a house each winter. He remembers the house; I don’t. The hotel (good business sense, right?) evidently marketed a youth recreation program to long-term snowbirds in the neighborhood, and our parents signed us up for it. My brother also clearly remembers “Mrs. G.”

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