On this day in 1887, Harvey Wilcox officially registers Hollywood with the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. Wilcox and his wife, Daeida, had moved to Southern California four years earlier from Topeka, Kansas, where Harvey had made his fortune in real estate. They bought 160 acres of land in the Cahuenga Valley, located in the foothills to the west of the city of Los Angeles. A once-sleepy settlement founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Poricuncula, Los Angeles was by then expanding rapidly thanks to the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 (the Santa Fe Railroad would arrive in 1885).
Wilcox, who had lost the use of his legs as a child due to polio, envisioned the land as the perfect site for a utopian-like community for devout Christians, where they could live a highly moral life free of vices such as alcohol (Wilcox was a prohibitionist). Daeida Wilcox called the new community “Hollywood.” Harvey laid out a street map of the settlement, centered on a main street he called Prospect Avenue (it was later renamed Hollywood Boulevard). After filing the map with the L.A. County recorder’s office, Wilcox set about laying out Hollywood’s streets, made of dirt and lined with pepper trees.
As Harvey sold lots, Daeida worked to raise money to build churches, a school and a library. By 1900, nine years after Harvey Wilcox’s death, Hollywood had a population of 500, compared with 100,000 people in Los Angeles at the time. It was connected to L.A. by a single-track streetcar running down Prospect Avenue; it took two hours to make the seven-mile trip, and service was infrequent. In 1910, the community of Hollywood voted to consolidate with Los Angeles due to an inadequate supply of water. Shortly thereafter, the fledgling motion-picture industry began growing exponentially, as moviemakers found their ideal setting in the mild, sunny climate and varied terrain of Southern California. As the years went by, Harvey Wilcox’s dreams of a sober, conservative religious community faded even further into the background, as Hollywood became known throughout the world as the gilded center of an industry built on fantasy, fame and glamour.