Week 236: Hollywood Heights

April 18, 2021

 10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #17: "Reaching Old Heights," 2.33 miles.

The morning was just too hot to head for the mountains, so Barbara and I decided to jump back a century or so and explore a small neighborhood in Hollywood with a big historic past. Literally each stop on our hike was a historic monument. As part of the "Father of Hollywood" H.J. Whitley's Ocean View Tract, Hollywood Heights is bordered by the Hollywood Bowl to the North, Highland Avenue to the East, Franklin Avenue to the South, and Sycamore Avenue off the Outpost Estates to the West. Most will recognize this section as the location of the Magic Castle on Franklin—our starting point. The chateau-style mansion, home to the Academy of Magical Arts since 1963, is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument not only for its magical history but for its early Hollywood history. Back when Hollywood Boulevard was a dirt road with not much more than a bank and a hotel, banker Rollin Lane—one of the original investors who developed Hollywood—built "Holly Chateau" in an orange grove at the base of the Hollywood Hills in 1909 . For thirty years this house was one of the most famous, socially elite addresses in the city. Barbara and I followed our map north up Sycamore to Yamashiro Restaurant and Gardens. On the National Register of Historic Places, the Yamashiro estate consists of several buildings built as a hilltop residence between 1911–1914 with a 180 degree east-to-west view that, on a clear day like today, was utterly jaw-dropping. We left our tour of Yamashiro's and headed north on Sycamore to Hillcrest to find a California Historical Landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places—the Samuel Freeman House at 1962 Glencoe Way. The Freemans, patrons to the arts, hosted avant-garde salons for Hollywood intellectuals at the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1924 using his signature textile blocks and adding the world's first glass-to-glass corner window. Barbara and I continued along Glencoe taking in the views of L.A. that make this neighborhood so unique. Most of the homes appear to have been built in the 1920s (paved streets arrived in 1929) and each one has a view of the city or the hills. A secret stairway took us up to Yeager Place and High Tower Drive where the private, 5-story, High Tower elevator (1920) delivers residents up to their Alta Loma hillside homes. The elevator was the only stop on our hike that's not a landmark, but it left its mark in movies including 1973's The Long Goodbye and in two Michael Connelly novels. From High Tower we followed Camrose down to Highland Avenue, and another Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on the National Register of Historic Places: the Highland-Camrose Bungalow Village built between 1916 and 1924. Many of the bungalows are gone, but rumor has it that Henley wrote "Witchy Woman" in Ronstadt's former bungalow here. Barbara and I walked down Highland to finish off the final leg of our hike with two more Los Angeles Cultural Monuments: The 1923, Art Deco Egyptian Revival-Moroccan-designed American Legion Post 43 on Highland with past members that include Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, and Stan Lee; and finally, the 1930 American Gothic designed Hollywood United Methodist Church at the intersection of Highland and Franklin. Sure, the church is one of the most famous churches on the Pacific Coast, a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument, and Sister Act was filmed there, but even more important—Barbara's parents were married there! So, the next time you're stuck in traffic at the Highland/Franklin intersection on your rush in or out of Hollywood, take a look around. You're sitting in the center of 100-year-old Hollywood history.



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