The Dream City Begins. 1920-1922

Hello again, and sorry for the year-long interruption. In the interim I completed the manuscript for my biography of J. W. Young, the founder of Hollywood, Florida, and sold it to McFarland & Company, Inc., publishers. The book, Joseph W. Young, Jr. and the City Beautiful. A Biography of the Founder of Hollywood, Florida, is in the process of being designed and edited. I will certainly announce the publication date as soon as I have it.

The blog’s new format will focus for now on facts about early Hollywood.

1920. Young buys the empty land between the city of Dania and the farming community of Hallandale with the intention of creating an entire city. From the start he has the plan of his dream city in mind.

Picture this: a strip of land with nothing on it but palmetto and jack pines, between two small farm communities. Occasionally a steam locomotive puffs through, heading south to Miami with its load of passengers. Running parallel to the tracks is a narrow, rough strip of road only completed five years earlier, in 1915.  This is the Dixie Highway. On it automobilists come bumping along in their flivvers and runabouts, drawn by the promise of adventure in the tropical city of Miami and its new neighbor, Miami Beach.

Now picture a tall, stout, dark-haired man dressed in heavy boots and hiking gear walking all over this rough acreage, particularly the area between the tracks and the Inland Waterway. Beyond the waterway is a pristine sand island of dunes, mangrove and sea grape, and beyond that the blue Atlantic Ocean.

When Young went looking for property along the Florida coast, he came upon the small city of Dania, whose farmers owned much of the surrounding land. Dania had been settled in the late 19th century and incorporated in 1904. Tony Mickelson, one of the first 12 men sent by Young to begin platting Hollywood, lived for a time here in Mrs. Bloom’s Hotel.

In 1920 Joseph W. Young bought a square mile of undeveloped Florida land, high, dry ground that was chiefly covered with palmetto and jack pines.
Snapshot from the Estate of Tony Mickelson

This is not isolated wilderness. The small farm community to the north is already incorporated as the city of Dania and has well-built one and two-story frame dwellings and stores, even a bank. Farther north is the larger city of Fort Lauderdale with its beautiful New River, which bills itself as “The Gateway to the Everglades.” The two Miamis are only ten miles south and growing fast, with tall buildings and paved streets, very cosmopolitan and finance oriented, and eager to attract new investors.

The dark-haired man has a plan He, J. W. Young, has been developing properties for over a decade, in California, Arizona, and Indiana. Now he wants to create an entire city, a beautiful city filled with comforts for its citizens, along the lines of the City Beautiful movement begun in Chicago in 1909 by renowned architect and city planner, Daniel Burnham. In Indianapolis Young learned about what auto racer, entrepreneur and headline-maker Carl Fisher was doing, creating the resort of Miami Beach on the barrier island across the bay from Miami. To get people to his resort Fisher brought the Dixie Highway into existence in 1915 so that Midwesterners could drive from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and thereabouts to his Miami Beach. Young was one of those captured by Fisher’s lures (he took the train in 1919). Convinced that south Florida is the coming place, Young buys the empty land between Dania and Hallandale as the site for his dream city. He calls it Hollywood simply because he likes the name.

Young’s creation did not begin simply as a housing development that expanded to become a city. Instead, Hollywood was a planned city from its earliest beginnings.

Young captured every facet of the building of his city in photos, and circulated these widely around the U.S. This photo appeared in his “Hollywood Reporter” dated May 1, 1921. Chief surveyor Tony Mickelson stands where the city would begin, where the Boulevard would cross the Dixie Highway and FEC tracks.
Joan Mickelson Collection

Top of plan is west. Heavy line near the middle is the Dixie Highway and FEC railroad tracks, running north and south. Small rectangle represents the original golf course. Bear in mind that east of the bottom edge of the golf course was marsh and water. North and South Lakes did not exist in any form until they were created by J. W. Young’s engineers, beginning in 1923. By 1925 Young had extended the Boulevard further west and created the third circle.

1921. The hundred-foot-wide Boulevard is the first element to be started, leading from the Dixie Highway and Florida East Coast railroad tracks eastward through Young’s intended Downtown area to the ten-acre Circle Park (today’s Young Circle).

Surveying the city boundaries, the Boulevard, and the streets continues through 1921, and by summer of 1922 twenty-five miles of paved streets and fifty miles of sidewalks are in place. These are in the Downtown and Central sections (Central is today’s Parkside). The Lakes section has yet to be drained.

1922. Lots sell quickly and individuals and contractors begin to build homes, but there is a serious need for temporary housing for visitors and prospective buyers. Young anticipated this even before clearing his land, and by summer of 1922 the Hollywood Hotel is under construction, situated on its own four acres intersecting the Boulevard, just to the east of Circle Park. The site is now occupied by a Publix and other shops. The hundred-room hotel was designed by the Indiana architects Rubush & Hunter. Still paying close attention to what Fisher was up to Young hired the same architects that had designed Fisher’s ten-story Flamingo Hotel that opened in late 1919 on the Biscayne Bay side of Miami Beach.  Rubush & Hunter were soon deeply involved in building design for Hollywood.

Young’s publicity describes the Hollywood Hotel (soon renamed the Park View Hotel) as gracefully elongated, of Spanish Renaissance design facing the Circle and with Moorish effects such as a dome on the ocean side. Lights encircling the dome can be seen for miles around at night over the cleared land, beckoning to travelers on the Dixie to turn up the Boulevard and investigate the new town and this handsome attraction.

Prior to Hollywood Young had not built any buildings, but as he began his “dream city” he hired a prestigious architecture firm to design both commercial buildings and homes, so that his city would have a beautiful uniform aspect. Having lived in California Young was partial to Spanish architecture, Particularly the California Mission style.

In May, 1922 Young’s publicity notes that there would not be any light or telephone poles on the streets of the city. Instead, in the business section (and later on the beach) all wires are underground. Elsewhere the poles are in the alleys between the streets.

To be continued.

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2 Responses to The Dream City Begins. 1920-1922

  1. Judy C says:

    Hard to imagine the Dixie Highway back then. The hotel is so elegant. The Moorish dome must have been remarkable. What vision they all had back then.

  2. marbil47933 says:

    What a great “idea man” J. W. Young must have been. He had a dream and made it into reality. The timing was right and his forward thinking painted a perfect picture of what his city would look like. I can’t wait for future chapters on this, most interesting, story of a Dream Come True.

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