Photos: From Prospect & Weyse to Hollywood & Vine

1947 postcard showing the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Courtesy of the Frasher Foto Postcard Collection, Pomona Public Library.

It's been touted as the world's most famous intersection. Radio station KFWB boasted that it broadcasted from the corner, and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper popularized it as a prime location for celebrity sightings. Given this glamorous past, it might seem unlikely that the rectangle of pavement where Hollywood Boulevard meets Vine Street began as the dusty crossroads of Prospect and Weyse avenues.

Hollywood was little more than a dream, a boom-time subdivision etched onto the Cahuenga Valley's fertile plain, when the intersection appeared on an 1887 map produced by town founders Horace and Daeida Wilcox. The Wilcoxes named Weyse Avenue (present-day Vine Street) after a real-estate developer -- likely Otto Weyse -- who impressed them with his ambitious but never-realized plans for a grand Hotel Hollywood. The name of the intersecting street, Prospect Avenue (now Hollywood Boulevard), meanwhile, was a holdover from an earlier subdivision, platted by onetime miner John Bower.

In its early years, the intersection sat among scented lemon groves, made possible by the Cahuenga Valley's frost-free microclimate. The quiet of the rural crossroads was interrupted only by the steam locomotives of the Cahuenga Valley Railroad, which passed through the intersection down the center of Prospect Avenue.

The intersection of Hollywood and Vine appears on this 1887 map as Prospect and Weyse, circled in pencil. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

View of Vine Street in 1907, looking north from Prospect Avenue. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Jacob Stern's lemon grove and gardens on the southwest corner of Hollywood and Vine in 1910. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Palm trees on Jacob Stern's garden on the southwest corner of Hollywood and Vine. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Years passed before the intersection acquired its now-familiar name. Weyse Avenue was the first of the two roads to acquire a new name. After the failure of Weyse's hotel, the road was rebranded as Vine Street, an appellation inspired by the grapevines then growing just north of present-day Santa Monica Boulevard. Prospect Avenue did not become Hollywood Boulevard until the once-independent city of Hollywood consolidated with Los Angeles in 1910. Finally, Hollywood and Vine was on the map.

The intersection's agricultural character gradually gave way to a more urban feel. In 1903, a Methodist church replaced lemon trees on the southeast corner. Twenty years later, the 12-story Taft Building -- Hollywood's first limit-height structure -- arose from the same spot. Its neighbors on the intersection soon followed: the southwest corner's Broadway Hollywood department store (built 1927) and the northeast's Equitable Building (1929) and Pantages Theatre (1930). Three of these structures topped out near 150 feet in height (then the legal limit in Los Angeles), giving the intersection a verticality that announced itself from afar. On the northwest corner, meanwhile, a succession of eateries -- Carl Laemmle's CoCo Tree Café, a Melody Lane restaurant, a Hody's diner, a relocated Brown Derby, and a Howard Johnson's -- fed Hollywood tourists inside low-slung buildings until a 2008 structure fire rendered the corner vacant.

But the intersection was mainly famous for association with the entertainment industry, one reinforced by its proximity to prominent production facilities. In 1913, Cecil B. DeMille produced the first Hollywood feature film one block away at Selma and Vine, inside a barn on Jacob Stern's citrus ranch. In 1938, NBC opened its West Coast radio studios another block south at Sunset and Vine, and the Capitol Records building has towered over Vine Street since 1956. Stargazing tourists flocked to "filmland's crossroads." But by the time its sidewalks became home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the 1950s, it had already entered a long, painful period of decline -- one reversed only within the past decade and a half.

The Hollywood Memorial Church occupied Hollywood and Vine's southeast corner from 1903 to 1923. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - California Historical Society Collection.

Hollywood and Vine is visible in the center of this 1921 aerial photo, which looks east down Hollywood Blvd, just behind a banner. The Hollywood Memorial Church stands on the intersection's southeast corner. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Hollywood's association with filmed entertainment has its origins in this horse barn, located a block away from Hollywood and Vine on Jacob Stern's lemon orchard. Cecil B. DeMille used the barn as his production office in 1913 while making the 'The Squaw Man,' the first feature-length film produced in Hollywood. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

A 1939 view of the Taft Building, Hollywood's first limit-height building. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - Dick Whittington Photography Collection.


A 1927 view of Hollywood and Vine, looking toward the northeast from the future Broadway Hollywood building. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - Dick Whittington Photography Collection.

From the steam trains of the Cahuenga Valley Railroad to the red cars of the Pacific Electric Railway, fixed-rail vehicles rolled through Hollywood and Vine for decades. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Hollywood and Vine is decorated for the holidays in this ca.1953 photo, which looks west down Hollywood Blvd. from Vine St. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

Another view of Hollywood and Vine decorated for the holidays, ca.1939. The view looks west down Hollywood Boulevard from the Equitable Building. The recently closed CoCo Tree Cafe stands on the intersection's northwest corner. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - California Historical Society Collection.

1949 postcard depicting Hollywood and Vine. The Melody Lane Cafe stands at the intersection's northwest corner. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

Hollywood and Vine appears unusually empty in this 1952 photo, taken during a civil defense air raid. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection.

Detail of a 1956 real estate map of Hollywood by Nirenstein's National Realty Map Company. Courtesy of the Map Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

1978 photo by William Reagh of Hollywood and Vine, looking north toward the Howard Johnson's restaurant and Capitol Records tower. Courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

1993 artist's rendering of the Metro Red Line station at Hollywood and Vine. Today the station remains, surrounded by the W Hollywood Hotel. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive

L.A. as Subject is an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region.

About the Author

A writer specializing in Los Angeles history, Nathan Masters serves as manager of academic events and programming communications for the USC Libraries, the host institution for L.A. as Subject.
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