JULY IN HOLLYWOOD IN THE EARLY TWENTIES

In July, 1920 Joseph W. Young, Jr. was prowling about in the farm land south of Dania, mentally creating his “Dream City” out of brush, marsh and beach.

In July, 1921 roads began to be carved out and covered with white rock.

In July, 1922 Young’s Hollywood Land & Water Company issued a brochure, Facts About Miami and Hollywood-By-the-Sea Florida as his tiny new city sought attention by connecting with better-known Miami, and by placing itself in a great location, between Miami and Palm Beach “in the heart of America’s winter playground.” By now the Hollywood Land & Water company has offices in Miami, Chicago and New York, with the main office in Indianapolis, where Young was already established. Now, barely a year after his city began Young can boast that there are “$500,000 worth of buildings completed or under construction.” Among these were a water plant, electric light plant, post office, bank, fire station, and 10 residences. Young and his publicity staff papered the nation with many such advertising broadsides.

A similar brochure from June, 1925 now titled Facts About Hollywood by-the-Sea and Florida points out the city’s enormous growth in just a year. Offices in six more cities are listed, in case you wanted to drop in and buy some Hollywood property in the St. Louis or Toronto office. Statistics mentioned are too numerous to note here, but for comparison there are now some $30 MILLION worth of buildings completed or under construction. There are stores, churches, a school, a bank, six parks, and over 1,000 residences. Supportive remarks are quoted from notables including Roger Babson, William Jennings Bryan, Judge Kenesaw Landis, and Henry Ford. Distinctive features are “only city to start with a zoning system,” “adequate building restrictions,” “a stucco city,” and “ocean front.” Pretty remarkable for a project begun by one perspicacious man. (These pamphlets may be seen at the Hollywood Historical Society’s Research Center.)

Young was so active in the printing business that he decided to start his own publishing arm, the Hollywood Publishing Company. As editor of Young’s Hollywood News J. Rogers Gore was hired away from Louisville, Kentucky. Already a distinguished author Gore had published The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln. Young put Gore in charge of all company publications. Gore also oversaw the construction of a building which would become very important to Hollywood’s history. This structure, on 21st Avenue two blocks north of the Boulevard, began as a two-story printing plant in 1924. It was soon outgrown for publishing purposes, causing Young to move Hollywood Publishing to Hollywood Boulevard. Then, at the end of 1925, when Hollywood becomes incorporated, Young donates his original printing plant to the city to become Hollywood’s first City Hall and first police station.

To locate Hollywood’s first City Hall: this photo shows 21st Avenue at Tyler Street, looking north. The blue building is the American Legion. Just above the pedestrian is a 2-story block with a tile roof. This is the original Hollywood Publishing Company that became Hollywood’s first City Hall in 1925. The larger structures to its east and north are later additions.

In light of this building’s importance to Hollywood, it’s interesting to read a detailed description of its original construction. The entire first floor, 40×75 feet, was for printing equipment, with a Miehle press placed next to one of the plate glass windows so that its operation would be visible to passersby. There were also two business offices on the ground floor. The second floor was reached by a staircase leading from the central street entrance. Upstairs were six editorial offices and two restrooms. The exterior was light buff stucco with an overhanging Mifflin Hood mottled red tile roof. Gold leaf letters across the front facade read “THE HOLLYWOOD PUBLISHING COMPANY.” Today this building has been enlarged on the north and east, and has served as Hemingway’s restaurant and various clubs.

The detailed stories about Rogers Gore and the publishing building are found in Young’s news magazine The Hollywood Reporter, for June and July, 1924. I am continually grateful to William Schaaf as he allows me to read through his copies of this rare historic document.

Also in July, 1924 Young started building Ocean Drive on the beach island. He had previously connected Johnson Street to the island by means of a barge bridge, and with that in place he continued Johnson Street from the canal to the Atlantic Ocean. Building Ocean Drive on the west side of the island required a good amount of dredge and fill work, but this had been halted when Young’s big dredge, “The Broward,” burned to the waterline. By July, 1924 the fill work has been completed and a 20-foot wide road is under construction from Johnson Street south. Hollywood’s far-seeing founder is again looking to the future, planning that his six-mile stretch of Ocean Drive would eventually connect to both Miami Beach and Palm Beach, to be one of the most appealing drives in America. Finally, 85 years later, on November 18, 2009 the Florida Department of Transportation designated State Road A1A, that is, Ocean Drive in Hollywood, as part of the Florida Scenic Highway system.

Ocean Drive/A1A at South Lake, looking north toward the Boulevard Bridge.

The old and the new on Ocean Drive/A1A, looking north toward Boulevard bridge. Begun by J. W. Young in 1924, Ocean Drive/A1A was designated part of Florida’s Scenic Highway System in 2009.

In the 1920s people bought sheet music and entertained each other singing and playing the day’s popular songs. A notice in the July, 1924 Hollywood Reporter mentioned that two songs about Hollywood, Florida were available . Phil Vitsky, who was a vaudeville entertainer before moving to Hollywood wrote Hollywood “By The Sea,” and Gloria Marshall, who gave nationwide recitals, wrote “On Hollywood Shore.” Miss Marshall included the song in her touring repertoire.

Vitsky’s sheet music was printed by Young’s Hollywood Music Company and sold for 25 cents a copy. It apparently did so well that the Victor Talking Machine Company planned to make a “test record” of it. If you have a copy of this record it is surely a collector’s item.

Recently teachers at Hollywood Central School located the sheet music for one of these songs, which the children there learned to sing.

The next two photos will suggest the extent of Young’s success in bringing people to his Dream City. The first photo appeared on the cover of the June, 1924 Hollywood Reporter. It shows the Flagler Street entrance to the Miami office of the Hollywood Land & Water Company with its California Mission Revival facade, Young’s favorite architectural style, complete with niches. Inside was a block-long garden lined with cement posts that held up-to-the-minute light fixtures. At the back of the garden, not visible in the photo, was an auditorium where Young’s lecturers held forth and his salesmen stood ready to take your money.

The centerpiece of this photo is one of Young’s fleet of 70 White buses, top of the line in comfort with leather seats. Young sent these buses around the eastern U.S. and brought hundreds down to Hollywood, expenses paid if you bought land. Young’s positive approach to selling his city included showing prospective buyers the area around Hollywood, including Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables.

Finally, the damaged but fascinating photo below, which may well have survived the 1926 hurricane, was taken on Hollywood beach about 1925. Auto enthusiasts will enjoy identifying the various makes of cars lining the streets. In the foreground, bottom right, is the corner of Grant Street and Ocean Drive. Next up, running horizontally across the middle, is Minnesota Street. Above that is Johnson Street. At its left end are shops built by the Young company, and rising three and four stories is the Hollywood Beach Casino, its north and west facades. Slightly to the right of center the 2-story white building is the first home built on Hollywood beach, built by J. L. Franks from Buffalo, NY at about 329 Buchanan Street in February, 1924. It was recently torn down and the site is empty. At far right on the horizon is the peaked roof of the second home built on the beach, by Daniel Russo from Rahway, NJ in March, 1924 at 324 Indiana Street. Both homes are mentioned in the June, 1924 Reporter.  The Russo home was a 5-room cottage of natural rock, one block south of the Franks’ home. Russo added a story to this building and by 1925 Dr. Harrison Walker had taken it over for Hollywood’s first hospital, the Gulfstream Hospital. Since then the building has been stuccoed over. Today this is the Coral House, now the oldest surviving building on Hollywood beach.

Photo by Hyde Studios. From the estate of Lamora Mickelson.

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One Response to JULY IN HOLLYWOOD IN THE EARLY TWENTIES

  1. Kay ellington says:

    Where can I find the history of Hollywoods first bank at the 2001 Hollywood Blvd. location?

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