Hollywood in 1903. The picture is looking from Whitley Heights, which is the hilly section you pass through on the Hollywood Freeway on your way into the Cahuenga Pass, just before you see the Hollywood Bowl. If you’re coming south on the Hollywood Freeway (the 101) this is the view that opens up a moment (or an hour on a bad traffic day) after passing by the Hollywood Bowl. It’s just that almost nothing you see now was there in 1903. The wider road running horizontally across the picture would be Hollywood Blvd (called Prospect Avenue then) which already had street car tracks running down its center. I’m not sure what street it is running diagonally through the picture, the beginnnings of Cahuenga Blvd? And did that road running along the base of the hill become Franklin Ave? Sunset Blvd is just discernible beyond. Even this early you can see that Hollywood Blvd (Prospect Ave doesn’t quite have the same ring) was more crowded with bigger buildings than Sunset Blvd. It’s a discombobulating view here, as so little of pre-studios Hollywood still stands and aside from Hollywood Blvd itself nothing is familiar in this photograph. Within twenty years this would be dramatically transformed, though, and within thirty it would look like a city.
Heading west (northwest, actually) on Hollywood Blvd just past Sunset Blvd in Los Feliz in 1904. Locals will notice the complete lack of anything they can recognize except the straight line of Hollywood Blvd between Sunset and the yet to be laid down (or even thought up) Vermont Avenue. Twenty years later this would all be urbanized and this picture would be as discombobulating to locals in the 1920’s as it is to locals now, a century later. They’re driving past what will be the VIsta Theater, but movie theaters wouldn’t even be invented till 1905, and in Pittsburgh. And just ahead of them at Sunset Blvd in a mere dozen years will be the vast movie set for the film Intolerance. Try explaining that to the people in that car, how in just a dozen years this hushed little world of orchards and vineyards and flowers will be unrecognizably and completely changed by a technology that scarcely exists yet.
Amazing the things you can see, and the things you can’t see, looking at really old photographs of the places you live.
(Pretty half baked essay, I see now, I managed to make it sound like there were no such thing as film and film making in 1904, when The Great Train Robbery was still playing to big crowds in the Vaudeville houses, hell, the people in the car may have been on their way downtown to go see a movie, who knows. Sunset was the thoroughfare connecting Hollywood and Los Angeles even then. If you were staying at the Hollywood Hotel (opened in 1902) a hour or two drive by motorcar through the lupine covered hillsides down Sunset would be grand entertainment. So people in Hollywood even then knew of films, and knew that there were studios like Edison’s churning them out prodigiously. But they didn’t know movies were about to become big screen huge productions and and entire industry would come into being making them. They certainly didn’t know that it in just a couple years movie making old begin moving from the east coast to Los Angeles. That there’d be a movie studio on Sunset—about a mile and a half from where they were when this picture was taken—in just six years and within a decade there’d be a mess of them. That was the technology I meant that turned a dreamy expanse of orchards and farms and flowered fields into enormous movie studios and a city to go with them. But saying that would take a lot more words than my initial post. Too Long Didn’t Write.)