Monday, March 12, 2012

In the Beginning - Nopalera

Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles -

 In 1851 in the Mexican village of Nopalera  (named for the Mexican nopal cactus indigenous to the area) stood one adobe hut. By 1870, an agricultural community flourished in the area with thriving crops of many common and exotic varieties. The area was known to these residents as the Cahuenga Valley, after the pass in the Santa Monica Mountains immediately to the north. Soon thereafter, land speculation led to subdivision of the large plots and an influx of homeowners.

  In the 1880s, Harvey Henderson Wilcox of Kansas, who made a fortune in real estate even though he had lost the use of his legs due to typhoid fever, and his wife, Daeida, moved to Los Angeles from Topeka. In 1886, Wilcox bought 160 acres  (0.6 km²) of land in the countryside to the west of the city at the foothills and the Cahuenga Pass. Horace Wilcox designed it to be a "model Southern California community" of Christian righteousness.

Accounts of the name, Hollywood, coming from imported English holly then growing in the area are incorrect. The name in fact was coined by Hobart Johnstone Whitley, the Father of Hollywood. He and his wife Gigi came up with the name in 1886 while on their honeymoon. They were standing on the hill overlooking the valley which is now Whitley Heights. It is part of the California Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. With a hand shake a deal was secured to purchase 500 acres from Mr. Hurd whom they shared the name of their new town. Over the years Whitley had established more than 140 towns. (from Margaret Virginia Whitley's memoir) A locally popular etymology is that the name Hollywood traces to the ample stands of native Toyon, or "California Holly," that cover the hillsides with clusters of bright red berries each winter.


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