Sunshine state insiders are betting that Hollywood will be the next go-to spot for locals, tourists and snow birds in search of a South Florida destination without the attitude, traffic or overcrowded sidewalks of South Beach.
Less hyped than Miami, the burgeoning, coastal city once known for the antics of spring breakers, past their prime motels on the beach and a dilapidated downtown has quietly spruced itself up. It’s not the West Coast Hollywood of celebrities and A-listers but it’s trying to reinvent itself.
In 2004, the $300 million dollar Seminole Hard Rock hotel and casino swung open its doors. Four years later, development mogul Donald Trump came to town and opened a $355 million, 40-floor, luxury high-rise condo on South Ocean Drive. Meanwhile, the area surrounding the town’s historic boardwalk is undergoing a continuing renovation, including a $15 million dollar renovation of the Ramada Beach Resort on North Ocean Drive.
Sandwiched between Fort Lauderdale and Miami and located in southeastern Broward County and thanks to a growth spurt in the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood is currently the ninth largest city in Florida and second largest in Broward County.
High and Mighty Joe
Washington state native and developer Joseph W. Young Jr. arrived in South Florida in 1920 in search of a “Dream City” he would call Hollywood-by-the-Sea.
Young’s vision included a wide boulevard extending from the ocean westward to the edge of the Everglades with man-made lakes paralleling each side of the roadway. His city plan, loosely based on Southern California, where he once lived, included large park spaces, a golf course, schools, churches and architecture styles then-popular in Southern California from bungalows to mission, Moorish, and Spanish-eclectic.
“Hollywood will be a city for everyone,” Young said, “From the opulent at the top of the industrial and social ladder to the most humble of working people.”
In February 1921, Young purchased one-square-mile of undeveloped farmland filled with pine trees, palmetto plants, low-lying marshland, and tangled undergrowth in what would evolve into present day Hollywood. Young then went to work attracting visitors who he hoped would eventually buy his property.
By 1925, Hollywood’s real estate market had reached an all-time high with speculators bidding up prices in buying frenzy. Homes and businesses were erected at a rapid pace thanks to the building of the Hollywood Boulevard Bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway at the cost of $110,000. The city of Hollywood was officially incorporated on November 28, 1925.
A total of 18,000 residents called Hollywood home by 1926. The city consisted of 36 apartment buildings, 252 businesses and nine hotels. The city now included 18,000 acres, six-and-a-half miles of oceanfront and an assessed value of $20,000,000.
During this period of phenomenal growth the construction along Hollywood Beach was rapidly altering the coastline. Construction was underway on a boardwalk patterned after Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk. Hollywood also boasted Florida largest bath pavilion, not to mention the extremely popular Hollywood Beach Casino. Located on the Boardwalk, the casino was built at a cost of $250,000 and contained 824 dressing rooms, eighty shower baths, a shopping arcade and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
On September 18, 1926, a monstrous hurricane decimated Joseph Young’s “Dream City.” The storm surge uprooted trees, toppled electrical wires, ripped roofs off of buildings and claimed 37 lives. The hurricane was responsible for millions of dollars in property damage and put an end to Hollywood’s construction boom.
Undiscouraged, Young formed the Hollywood Relief Committee. But the overwhelming task of rebuilding and the financial losses incurred by the hurricane caused thousands of Hollywood residents to abandon their newly-adopted homes and return to northern cities. This caused the population to sharply decline from 18,000 to 2,500. Property values also nose-dived as former residents sold properties for whatever the real estate marketplace could yield. During this tough period, the Hollywood municipal band would gather on Hollywood Boulevard and play inspirational music as the rebuilding of the city took place.
Meanwhile, founder Joseph Young’s financial state grew more and more precarious. He eventually lost control of his vast Hollywood holdings to a sheriff’s auction in front of a Fort Lauderdale courthouse in 1930. After his bankruptcy, Young continued to live in his beloved, adopted city until he died of heart failure at the age of 51 in April 1934 inside of his Hollywood Boulevard home.
After two decades of slow, steady economic growth Hollywood’s population climbed to 14,351 by 1950. In 1951, a $1 million bond referendum providing funds for the construction of Hollywood Memorial Hospital was passed. Two years later the facility opened providing 100 hospital beds and a major facility for southern Broward County.
The following year Hollywood Boulevard was extended from State Road 7 westward to U.S. 27 along the eastern edge of the Everglades in Broward County. This triggered the western expansion of the city and the town’s population continued to grow.
In 1975, the city celebrated its 50th anniversary. During the celebration, Hollywood town officials adopted the nickname the “Diamond of The Gold Coast.” By this time Hollywood had grown to include over 27,500 single family residences, 34,581 apartments as well as co-ops and condos, and a population exceeding 125,400 people.
The Future Hollywood
Hollywood has lived up to its Gold Coast nickname by bettering itself environmentally. The city recently celebrated the opening of the Anne Kolb Nature Center located in Hollywood’s West Lake Tract district. The center boasts over 1,500 acres of mangrove preserves and is the site of a protected bird rookery and sanctuary. In North Beach, a sea turtle hatchery and preserve has also been developed for future generations to visit.
Hollywood has produced a number of notable residents including World War II pin-up girl and actress Veronica Lake, “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh and professional hoopster and Los Angeles Laker Steve Blake. A major industrial headquarters includes HEICO Corporation, a firm that is engaged in the design and manufacturing of aerospace, defense and electronic-related products, and the Invicta Watch Group, a manufacturer of timepieces and writing instruments.
The October 1997 issue of Money Magazine noted that Hollywood, Florida’s multi-cultural, racial diversity best represent what the United States will look like in the year 2022, recognizing founder Joseph Young’s vision that “Hollywood will be a city for everyone.”
Christy Smith-Sloman is a staff writer for The South Florida Cooperator.