Joseph W. Young, Jr. found the land where he would create his city late in 1920.   On January 14, 1921 the purchase was announced in the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel:

S. M. Alsobrook, who owned most of the land between Dania and Hollywood
sold to a northern syndicate the last of last week, 1,700 acres of land along both
sides of the Dixie Highway. This subdivision joins Dania on the south side and
extends to within half a mile of Hallandale. According to reports to the Sentinel
two groups of surveyors will be on the ground this week to survey and plat
the land. The plan calls for a 40’ Boulevard to the beach directly east of the center of
the property. This new town site is not to be part of Dania, but is to add one more
to the list of East Coast towns that are fast revolving themselves into the city
extending from Palm Beach to Miami with Fort Lauderdale the hub. The price paid,
according to reports, was $71.00 per acre.

February 19, 1921 the name “Hollywood” appears, in the Miami Metropolis Herald, announcing that Joe Young had incorporated the Hollywood Land & Water Company with $1 million capital.

So I am going to discuss the naming of Hollywood, Florida today.

Why “Hollywood”? Why did Joseph Young name his planned city “Hollywood.” The direct answer, as best as my research has found, is that he just liked the name. According to Edythe Whitson, who was working for Young in Indianapolis before he even began looking for his city site, when he told his staff that he had bought land and was planning a city called “Hollywood, Florida,” they wondered why that name. Well, for one thing, he didn’t want anything named for himself, no Youngstown, or Youngville. As far as Mrs.Whitson and the others could figure, Young just liked the sound of the name Hollywood.
It isn’t an unusual name for a place. There are some 18 Hollywoods in the USA, some dating from the 19th century. For example, Hollywood, Maryland was named in 1867 for a holly tree, according to their website. The point here is that Hollywood, California, wasn’t unique when Young named his city.

Maybe there were holly bushes here? No, holly doesn’t grow in our part of Florida. Young’s land would have been covered with palmetto, sandspurs, 1921 scenery 6reeds in the marshy places, some planted fields of tomatoes and pineapples, and in the dry areas, the jackpines.

11Mickelsonleft, Hollywood in 1920

right, Tony Mickelson standing where Hollywood Boulevard would be built as a turning off the Dixie Highway, dated May 1, 1921. Collection of the Estate of Tony Mickelson.

The Miami Woman’s Club had planted casuarina trees along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks when the area was still Dade County.

IMG_2550left, from Young’s Hollywood Reporter,  1922. The sign reads “Hollywood By-the-Sea.” Caption says looking north up the Dixie Highway, with the Florida East Coast railroad just to the right.

Well before 1920 someone had started groves of avocados and mangos along today’s 24th Avenue. We had some of the avocado trees on our acre of land on Polk Street (24th doesn’t go through there).  I can still spot some of these 100-year-old trees beside older homes in the Little Ranches. And there was also the orange grove planted on today’s Orange Brook Golf Course, which was still there in the 1930s. But no holly. scan0001

right, Orange Brook Golf Course in the 1930s. Postcard.

About Hollywood, California. The most common assumption is that J. W. Young was movie-crazy, and therefore named his city for the movie capital.
There are many incorrect elements in that assumption. For starters, I’ll just point out that Young named his city in 1920. At that time, Hollywood CA was still a 120-acre community, part of the city of Los Angeles (which it still is), in the flat land beneath a range of mountains. It had been purchased in 1883 by Horace and Daeida Wilcox, from Topeka, Kansas, to create a “utopian-like community containing citizens who reflected the Wilcoxes’ own Christian values,” allowing no bars or saloons in their land. (If you want the source of all my info, please refer to my biography of J. W. Young which is thoroughly referenced and annotated.) Interestingly, Young did have similar values to the Wilcoxes, not in so many words, but his city was planned to be a beautiful place for everyone. As for bars, this was a moot issue since Prohibition was in force in 1920.

And how did Hollywood, CA get its name? I am so pleased with my research on this that I’m going to repeat what I’ve already published. The historian in Hollywood CA when I was there about 10 years ago said they weren’t really sure about that, except that Daeida Wilcox had met a “wealthy Chicago woman” on the train back east to Topeka, who told Daeida that she had an estate she called “Hollywood” because of the “verdant holly bushes adorning the grounds.” Like J. W. Young, Daeida apparently liked the name, and on her return told her husband they should call their utopia Hollywood. Horace Wilcox suggested that perhaps “Figwood” was more appropriate since they could grow figs but no holly. Daeida’s preference won. (It’s kind of fun to think of movies being made for the silver screen in Figwood.)
Ah, but where in Chicago was this wealthy woman’s holly-bearing property? In a sense it’s hidden in plain sight. Poking around on the Internet for an Illinois Hollywood, I found it, right in Cook County. When Edith Rockefeller married Harold McCormick in 1893, her father John D. Rockefeller gave her a tract of land that she named Hollywood for its lush holly bushes. In 1919 Mrs. McCormick sold some of her property to the Hollywood Citizens Association, then donated much of the rest of it to the Forest Preserve of Cook County for a zoo.
So the genealogy of Hollywood, Florida’s name goes like this: Edith Rockefeller McCormick names her Illinois estate “Hollywood.” Daeida Wilcox meets Edith on a train, likes the story and takes the name back to her property in California, even though there are no hollies on her land. Her development is well-advertised in the Los Angeles area, as “Beautiful Hollywood,” by 1903, and was one of the destination names on the trolleys that ran all over Los Angeles and Orange counties. J.W. Young, having heard the name from the papers, perhaps, like Daeida Wilcox, simply liked the sound of it.
I have wonderful images of the Wilcoxes land in the 1890s, of ads for Beautiful Hollywood, of the trolley bearing a destination sign for “Hollywood” out in what was then a wilderness, and even of the Illinois Hollywood, but I do not have the rights to use these images in my publications. Most image owners charge for such use—it’s one way to support historical archives.)

What, no movies? It is regularly suggested that J.W. Young loved movies, films, motion pictures, therefore named his city for the movie capitol. Well, if that first part were true, then it would be odd that he would think of Hollywood. True, in 1914 C. B. DeMille filmed “The Squaw Man” in a barn he rented in the Wilcoxes suburb (which had attracted farmers as settlers), and the area began to attract more members of the movie industry. But Young didn’t have to ride the trolley from Long Beach on the shore out to the northeast LA area to find film-making. He lived in Long Beach from 1902 to 1916, and during those years, beginning in 1910, Young was right in the center of film-making as Long Beach was the home of several major silent motion picture companies. There were size-able sound stages on eight acres right downtown in Long Beach, and auto and fire engine chases were filmed around the streets. Actors (Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, even Pearl White and Theda Bara), directors, stage hands lived there in Long Beach. The Horkheimer brothers who had one of the largest film production companies there, called Balboa films, belonged to Young’s Elks lodge. So had Young been fascinated enough by movies to name his city for their source, he more likely would have chosen “Long Beach” or “Balboa.”
You can read about Long Beach as a center of silent film-making in Jura & Bardin, Balboa Films: A History and Filmography of the Silent Film Studio.

No movie theaters in Young’s Hollywood. And another thing. If Young had been so enamoured of movies, silent or otherwise, then wouldn’t he have built one of those 1920s movie palaces that are so admired today? He had the resources. But in fact, Young never built any kind of theaters at all. He gave land for congregations to build churches, and he built a school. But no theaters.

Ritz Theatre

Ritz Theatre

Yes, there was a theater in downtown Hollywood, built in 1923 but it was built by someone else,Thomas McCarrell, Sr., for stage performances. It was called the Hollywood Theatre. Arthur Enos was first stage manager. Movie films were added years later and the name was changed to Ritz Theatre.

Reporters, Mayors, 26 storm 019And up along 18th Avenue (now U.S. 1) on land not owned by J. W. Young, was Brandon’s Hippodrome Theatre, while nearby was the Garfield Theatre, again, not built by Young.

At right is Brandon’s Hippodrome after the 1926 hurricane which demolished many buildings along north 18th Avenue (US 1). Perhaps they were not built according to the building code enforced by Young on his land. Brandon’s establishment was chiefly for vaudeville, possibly not the kind of entertainment Young envisioned for his family-oriented city. We haven’t located any information about the Garfield Theatre.

How Young entertained visitors. J. W. Young was by no means opposed to public entertainment. As soon as his first hotel was built, in otherwise empty Hollywood, he put a marimba band on the payroll of the Hollywood Land & Water Company, and had them playing in the lobby of the Hollywood Hotel.IMG_0052

As soon as he was able to bring roads over to the beach island, he built the Tangerine Tea Room for dancing on the Broadwalk.

Below, the Broadwalk looking north, the Tangerine Tea Room on the corner of Johnson Street, 1925.

Tangerine Tea Room on Broadwalk, 1925

Tangerine Tea Room on Broadwalk, 1925

Also on the Broadwalk at Johnson Street, south side, Young put in the Olympic size salt-water pool, called a casino  before that term became connected with gambling, and brought noted swimmers, divers, and other water entertainment for viewers to watch from covered grandstands.boat in casino

Top, Hollywood Beach Casino Pool with viewing stands filled to capacity watching some sort of small boat activity.

Beach Casino pool from ocean, crowds, 1926


Bottom, Young’s Hollywood Casino, 1925. Hand-colored postcard.








Country Club dance floor 1925 billYoung’s Country Club, seen at right, was designed with an elegant glass dance floor that was open to the stars above, with colored lights in the glass floor beneath, and a full orchestra playing during dinner and dancing. 41Mickelson

At right, dance floor with canvas roof open.  Hand-colored postcard.

At left, the dance floor, looking in the opposite direction, filled with elegantly-dressed dancing couples.




As for movie production, Young was well-acquainted with sound stages, having seen several in operation in Long Beach, and surely would have found room for them in Hollywood if he’d been interested in film-making. There were sound stages in Miami, as well. But there is no record of any regular movie production activity in Hollywood in the 1920s, not in the city or county directories, not in Young’s news Reporter or in plans by his architects, and not on the Sanborn map of 1926 which indicates every structure in the city including garages and sheds.

How Young Used Movies. Joseph Young was highly knowledgeable about the use of publicity. So although he does not seem to have been greatly interested in story-telling films, he could see the value of movies in advertising his city. His Hollywood Reporter of May, 1924 has a full page article on the making of a publicity film about Hollywood in order to “take Hollywood into the North…to exhibit its charms to those who have hitherto shown no disposition to come and see it for themselves.”

advertising movie, Miami company, Reporter May 1924, p. 12

advertising movie, Miami company, Reporter May 1924, p. 12

The article, headed “Movies. Graphic Local Scenes Taken for Advertising Purposes,” stated that two reels of films about the making of the city had been commissioned from the Kniffin-Coutant Photo Film Company of Hialeah Studios, Miami, to show Hollywood “in all its phases.” By this means Young was certain that “everyone who sees these entertaining and instructive pictures will have a strong curiosity aroused to see the original scenes…” and surely, buy the properties.

So, to sum up, Joseph Young, founder of Hollywood, Florida in 1920-21, had spent his own 20s and 30s in the center of silent film-making in California, that is, Long Beach, where the main studio was called Balboa. The small suburb of Hollywood, part of Los Angeles, was miles away, chiefly accessible by trolley from where Young lived. Nothing suggests that Young traveled to see the Wilcoxes development, but he could have read about Beautiful Hollywood in the Los Angeles papers. Mrs. Wilcox, founder of that Hollywood with her husband, chose the name because she liked it, even though there weren’t any hollies on her land. There were no hollies on Young’s Florida land, either, but he too, seems to have liked the name, but wasn’t particularly interested in film entertainment. He did not build a movie palace in Hollywood, nor did he build sound stages. His main connection to film-making was in 1924 when he hired a Hialeah film company to make a documentary of the building of his city, in order to attract more visitors–and buyers–to his Hollywood.Beach theater 25-26 Boca gift HHS


scan 128.tif




Three photos of the movie photographer documenting early Hollywood. Left, on the Broadwalk covering a baby parade. Building at center is a sales pavilion. The pink cement Broadwalk is lined north from Johnson Street with handsome street lights. At right, probably the first of several bandstands at the ocean end of Johnson Street. Photog at center while the band leader in his white suit may well be Caesar LaMonaca. All are courtesy of the Hollywood Historical Society.

At right, the cameraman is aiming at the Hollywood/Park View Hotel across Circle Park (now Young Circle), with the Great Southern Hotel at right, while several marching bands proceed toward the viewer.

So now you know about J. W. Young, movies, and naming Hollywood. Pass the word along!

Park View & Great Southern, 4th July parade 1925

Park View & Great Southern, 4th July parade 1924

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  1. judyinboston says:

    I want to hear a marimba band!

  2. Pingback: Why Hollywood? | SV Destiny

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