Hollywood, a neighborhood in Los Angles, is now synonymous with glamour and glitz. It is the world's biggest machine of film production. But back in 1853, only a small wooden house existed where the film industry stands today.
By 1870s, some small farmlands started cropping up in this region. The dusty diverse terrain was first used in 1887 by real estate baron Harvey Henry Wilcox. He and his wife - Daeida moved from Kansas and purchased 150 acres land.
Wilcox christened his farmland "Hollywood". He attempted livestock ranching, but plans did not go well. So, he subdivided his property and submitted new grid maps to the recorder's office.
The only dirt lane was marked as Prospect Avenue. A two-hour trip on a trolley car was the only way of communication with nearest city LA. At the beginning of the 19th century, only one post office, two markets and around 500 people lived here.
But two things changed the wind.
The first hotel was established here in 1902. The wooden structure was owned by H J Whitley. He was also a real estate tycoon like Henry Wilcox. Whitley built the hotel to attract settlers. The Hollywood hotel is now the site of the famous Dolby Theater where the academy awards are hosted.
Two years later, Prospect Avenue turned into a road from a dusty lane. A new trolley car replaced the old one in 1904, which boosted mobility dramatically.
Whitley purchased 460 acres of land along with some other companies. He reshaped the northern countryside and formed the first dedicated resident area "Ocean View Tract".
He is called the father of modern Hollywood. Even Hollywood got its official name from Whitley. There is a theory that Whitley's wife - Margaret Virginia came up with the name while honeymooning in this area in 1886 and suggested the name for Daeida's farm. Wilcox and Daeida, later, labeled their farm with that name.
Whitley actually put in a lot of effort to promote the dusty area. He brought in the maiden electricity and gas line, streetlamps, and even the first train and bank.
Hollywood, later, was annexed with Los Angeles in 1910 to secure fresh water supply and to gain access to L A's sewer system. That is when the dusty lane – "Prospect Avenue" officially became the Hollywood Boulevard. By 1920, all the municipality problems in the town got resolved.
The very first wave of cinema hit Hollywood in 1908. Selig Polyscope Company filmed their cinema "The Count of Monte Cristo" in Hollywood.
Though production had begun in Chicago, the first film made entirely in Hollywood was Old California, a 14-minute short film in 1910. By 1911, Nestor Motion Picture Company became the first film studio to have been established in Hollywood. This company had moved from New Jersey to Hollywood and leased a small plot for the price of $30 per year. Later, they merged with Universal Pictures.
Soon, 20 more companies set up their production line in Hollywood. Two more locations - Sunset Strip and Sunset Boulevard turned into a magnificent shooting location at the same time. Filmmakers found great advantage as the shooting location was within 3 miles of the office zone. The sunny weather and mountains were perfect for movie backdrops.
There was another reason filmmakers migrated their production from New Jersey to Hollywood. Thomas Edison led Motion Picture Patent Company was in New Jersey. Edison held patents to more than 1000 Kinetoscopes (an early motion picture exhibition device), lights used in photograph and many other indispensable cinema technologies.
Apparently, Edison used these patents as a cudgel. In short, anybody who wanted to produce and display a movie had to pay the Edison cartel. So, there were two solutions; either work under his supervision or flee to get rid of Edison's intellectual property claims. Most of the production houses chose the second option.
In 1913, four film producers formed Jesse L Lasky Feature Play Company (later Paramount Pictures). Hollywood had become the center of the American film industry by 1915 as more independent filmmakers relocated there from rest of the US.
The golden age of cinema began and Hollywood started to glitter more every day. Charlie Chaplin built his studio on 1917. By the 1920s, four major companies - Paramount, Warner Bros, RKO, and Columbia set up their studio here. Later in 1929, the town hosted the first academy award at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
The "Hollywood" sign on mountain top was actually an advertisement to attract tourists and new settlers. It was installed in 1923. It was supposed to last one and half year only. But it lasted for decades and it will surely last another couple of decades!