Have You Ever Wondered… How Streets in Hollywood Got Their Names?
October 10, 2014
Wilcox Avenue. Gower Street. DeLongpre Avenue. If you live or work in Hollywood these are the familiar thoroughfares and side streets you traverse daily. But have you ever wondered where these streets got their names? Well, luckily, we’re here to fill you in.
At the turn of the century, Hollywood was growing from a sleepy, rural area into a dense urban community. In 1903, its citizens voted to incorporate and Hollywood soon became its own little city (a completely dry town, incidentally). But by 1910, the population had grown so quickly that it became clear the city couldn’t survive without a source of water. And the only way to tap into nearby water and sewer resources was for Hollywood to annex itself back to Los Angeles.
With that annexation came the need to renumber and rename many of the streets starting with Prospect Avenue, the main drag through the center of town, which became Hollywood Boulevard. Many of the surrounding streets were then renamed to pay homage to Hollywood’s earliest settlers. Following are a few examples:
Gower Street: John T. Gower and his family moved to Hollywood from Hawaii in 1869 and bought a 160-acre plot of land between Sunset and Melrose, from Bronson to Gower. They farmed the land, growing wheat and barley. Later on, many of the original movie studios were located near Gower, and the intersection of Gower and Sunset earned the nickname “Gower Gulch” for all the extras dressed in Western attire that would walk to work there.
DeLongpre Avenue: Paul DeLongpre, was a French artist who was famous for painting flowers. After discovering the wild beauty of Hollywood in 1901, he bought a 3-acre plot of land and built a magnificent Mission-style home on Cahuenga, north of Hollywood. His magnificent “Le Roi de Fleur” flower garden became a major tourist attraction on a “Balloon Route” trolley trip on the Pacific Electric Railroad. De Longpre died in 1911 and the house and gardens were sold and dismantled by 1927.
Vine Street: A Supreme Court dispute over the ownership of the Rancho La Brea was settled in 1873. As part of the settlement, the lawyer in the case, Senator Cornelius Cole, was awarded a tenth of the ranch (500 acres) in an area he called Colegrove, bounded by Sunset and Beverly between Seward and Gower. He quickly developed the land, planting 25,000 grapevines north of Santa Monica. Vine Street, which ran north-south through Colegrove, was named Vine in honor of the vineyards it once crossed.
Wilcox Avenue: Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife Daeida moved to Hollywood from Topeka, Kansas in 1884 and bought a beautiful ranch full of fig and apricot trees. Legend has it that Daeida came up with the name for her ranch after meeting a woman on a train who described her summer home near Chicago in such glowing terms that Daeida was moved to name her estate by the same name—Hollywood. When the fruit business didn’t take, off, Harvey began subdividing the land and after his death at age 59, Daeida took over, increasing the land’s value substantially and earning herself the nickname, “Mother of Hollywood.”
Ivar Avenue: Ivar Weid and his wife came to Los Angeles from Denmark in 1870 and bought a 640-acre parcel with frontage along what is now Western Avenue from Santa Monica Boulevard to Beverly Boulevard. He transformed this land from a wild estate to a working agricultural ranch with a wide assortment of trees. Many people say Daeida Wilcox got the idea for the name Hollywood from a lovely holly-like bush called Toyon, or “California Holly” that grew on his land.
Who knows which version is true…but does it really matter? The stories are all fun…
Photos by Gary Leonard.
Kim Sudhalter has worked with the Hollywood Entertainment District since its early years, helping to attract investment and revitalize the area. Originally from Europe and New York, she is an architecture and history buff who has a deep and abiding love for Hollywood and its past.