Hollywood was little more than a dream, a boom-time subdivision etched onto the Cahuenga Valley's fertile plain, when an intersection destined for fame first appeared on an 1887 map. Known today as Hollywood & Vine—a booming tourist hub and the center of the Walk of Fame—the intersection began as an undistinguished, dusty patch of land where Prospect and Weyse avenues met.
In its early years, the intersection sat among scented lemon groves, made possible by Hollywood's frost-free microclimate. The quiet of the rural crossroads was interrupted only by the steam locomotives of the Cahuenga Valley Railroad rumbling down Prospect Avenue.
As the intersection acquired its now-familiar name—it became Hollywood & Vine in 1910—its 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, and by 1930 buildings on three corners 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.
But the intersection was mainly famous for its 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 & 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.
This 1907 photo (courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library) looks north up Vine Street from Hollywood Boulevard when the intersection was decidedly rural:
Another view of Stern's ranch, showing his palm garden, also courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library:
Hollywood's association with filmed entertainment has its origins in this horse barn, located very near Hollywood & Vine on Jacob Stern's lemon orchard. Cecil B. DeMille used the barn—shown here courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library–as his production office in 1913 while making the The Squaw Man, the first feature-length film produced in Hollywood:
One of the first structures to stand at the intersection was the Hollywood Memorial Church (1903-23), shown here circa 1905 courtesy of the USC Libraries' California Historical Society Collection:
Hollywood & Vine is visible just behind a banner in the center of this 1921 aerial photo (courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library), which looks east down Hollywood Boulevard:
By 1927, Hollywood & Vine had acquired a more urban appearance. This 1927 view, courtesy of the USC Libraries' Dick Whittington Photography Collection, looks toward the intersection's northeast corner:
By midcentury, Hollywood & Vine had become a famous tourist destination, as seen in this 1947 postcard courtesy of the Frasher Foto Postcard Collection at Pomona Public Library:
Top image: A 1910 photo (courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library) of Jacob Stern's lemon ranch, located on the southwest corner of Hollywood & Vine.
Southland is made possible by a partnership between Gizmodo, the USC Libraries, and the member collections of L.A. as Subject. Written by Nathan Masters, the series explores the urban past of Los Angeles, including the lost landscapes and forgotten infrastructures that continue to influence the city we know today. A version of this post previously appeared on KCET.org as "Photos: From Prospect & Weyse to Hollywood & Vine."