Hollywood Before the Movies, Part III: Mansions and Streetcars
July 6, 2010 § 5 Comments
The turn of the 20th century was also a turning point for Hollywood. No longer a farming community of like-minded Christians but not yet the seat of the movie industry, the village of Hollywood briefly became a garden suburb for the newly wealthy.
Among this second wave of Hollywood settlers was E. C. Hurd, whose sprawling Victorian home is pictured above. Hurd dug his fortune from the mines of Colorado and invested it in a prime Hollywood tract, on which he built a mansion and planted a lemon grove. Here we see his estate on the north side of Hollywood Blvd., with an early motor car–presumably his–to the right. Only the pepper tree in the foreground hints at agriculture; far more portentous is the Santa Monica-bound streetcar on the left. Part of the Pacific Electric Railway Company’s growing inter-urban network–soon to be the world’s largest public transportation system–the trolley car took passengers from downtown Los Angeles to the beach, though Hollywood probably was the more popular destination.
Beyond the obvious, the photograph foreshadows Hurd’s own future in business. He would soon purchase the Cahuenga Valley Railroad and extend the line to Laurel Canyon, opening it to residential development.
Perhaps the most famous Hollywood transplant of the time was Paul de Longpre, a French horticultural painter who arrived in Los Angeles with his family in 1889. After de Longpre discovered his ideal flowers growing in Hollywood, he met Daeida Wilcox, who was so anxious to attract culture that she gave him her homesite, three lots on Cahuenga just north of Prospect (later Hollywood Blvd.), for his estate.
The mansion and gardens Paul de Longpre built not only drew Hollywood society but served as a lure for new property buyers and tourists. So many visitors came to see “Le Roi des Fleurs” that the P.E. Railway added a trolley spur on Ivar Avenue to deposit them closer to the estate. Tours of the house and gardens, along with prints of his floral paintings, supported the de Longpre family until the artist’s death in 1911. After his family returned to France, the house and gardens were demolished for their valuable real estate, and de Longpre’s paintings–romantic still-lifes of roses, orchids and the like–fell permanently out of fashion. If not for De Longpre Avenue, most Hollywooders today would not recognize his name, let alone his art.
Coincidentally, 1911 was the year Los Angeles’s public transport system became the world’s largest, with 1,000 miles of track. In Hollywood, the year not only marked the end of de Longpre’s era but the beginning of another, as a new wave of residents discovered the town: movie people. More on them in future posts.
Kevin Starr, Inventing the Dream: Southern California Through the Progressive Era. Oxford University Press, 1985.
Gregory Paul Williams, The Story of Hollywood. BL Press, 2005.