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The first map of the new Hollywood development, from 1887. (Photo: Los Angeles Public Library)

Hollywood Was Once an Alcohol-Free Community

Modern Hollywood is a far cry from its intrepid female founder's "dream of beauty"

smithsonian.com

In 1900, Hollywood, California, was a small town of 500 people, many of whom had moved there from the midwest. Around 15 years earlier, Daeida Hartell, a young woman from Ohio, had traveled there with her husband, Harvey Henderson Wilcox, and convinced him to purchase 120 acres. Curbed Los Angeles lays out the whole, long story: the couple soon moved there permanently and imagined a "utopian subdivision" to accomodate "cultured, wholesome Midwesterners looking for fresh air and a second act in California."

Daeida didn't plan on Hollywood to become any old wholesome community, however. She wanted it to be fiercely Christian, to match her own beliefs. Curbed LA describes what that entailed: 

She was creating an alcohol-free, cultured Christian community. To that end she offered free lots to Christian churches regardless of their denomination. 

Liquor, the use of firearms, speeding, pool halls and even bowling alleys were banned. The riding of bicycles and tricycles on sidewalks was prohibited—telling, given that the only sidewalks in Hollywood at the time were in front of the homes of Daeida and one other prominent developer. For all its infighting, the new town of Hollywood now entered its brief golden age. A woman who grew up during the time remembered a "country life," where children ran through lemon, orange, and tomato fields and made snowmen during the rare snow of 1905.

The idyllic town would not last long, however. In 1903, residents voted on whether or not to turn Hollywood into an official city—Daeida opposed the change, but, as a woman, could not even participate in the vote. By 1910, Hollywood, now a city, had a population had a population of 5,000. And by the time Daeida lost her life to cancer in 1914, Curbed LA writes, the first bars and arcades had popped up, putting an final end to her dream of a "temperate oasis" out West. 

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