I came across this photo recently on a favorite website of mine on which are posted old photos of L.A. It was taken in 1938 of a girl obviously fresh off the bus from Noplace, Arkansas like ten thousand pretty girls before her and ahead of the next ten thousand pretty girls. It caught my eye because one of my main characters does exactly the same thing. A cliché I know, but hopefully I’ve managed to pull it off with a twist. And any rate, this lonely little gal is standing outside one of the most famous department stores in 1930s L.A. – The Broadway-Hollywood. The Broadway was a very well-known chain of department stores and one of its high-profile branches stood on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
It got me to thinking about the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street and how it’s probably the most famous street corner in the world. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles myself and eventually became a tour guide for the lovely Anne Block at Take My Mother, Please (yes, that’s actually the name of her tailor-made touring company) that I learned why it became so famous so I thought I’d share it with you, dear gentle readers.
The corner wasn’t particularly well-known until the popularity of radio started to take hold in the 1920s. The advent of national radio networks (the first being NBC, established in 1926) necessitated the need for a Los Angeles studio and the first one was built near the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine St. Competing networks followed and also built their headquarters in the same area. When these stations started broadcasting, radio listeners from coast to coast would hear the words, “Coming to you live from the corner of Hollywood and Vine right here in Hollywood, California!” Listeners would hear this so often that in their minds, the center of Hollywood was located at that intersection and so the location became fixed in the collective mind of the nation – and the world – as the epicenter of the movie business.
By the way, the Broadway-Hollywood store is no longer there however the building still is. Like so many of its ilk these days, it has been converted into loft apartments. Back in 1953, to commemorate Hollywood’s 50th anniversary, a plaque set into the wall of the Broadway Hollywood Department Store building was unveiled. It reads: “Hollywood was given its name by pioneers Mr. and Mrs. Horace H. Wilcox. They subdivided their ranch in 1887 and called two dirt cross-roads Prospect Avenue and Weyse Avenue. Prospect Avenue, the main artery, was renamed Hollywood Boulevard and Weyse Avenue became Vine Street. This was the origin of “Hollywood and Vine.”