Posted: Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

The Whitley Heights sign was the first sign to light the Hollywood Hills.  HJ felt that movie publicists had nothing on land developers when it came to marketing and bright lights.  Electricity was a new commodity and the public was fascinated by it.  The sign was studded with more lightbulbs than most people could image. As you can see the Hollywood sign is not there yet.



The sign was so successful that HJ suggested to Harry Chandler that he might do the same thing for his property.  The original plan was to have the sign there for a year or so.  The sign would read "Hollywoodland".  It has now become the famous Hollywood Sign.  

Posted: Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 by Gaelyn Whitley Keith


Gigi Whitley 1880’s Memoir:

And this is what the Oklahoma Illustrated History says about HJ Whitley.

Oklahoma and especially Guthrie owes Mr. Whitley a heavy debt of gratitude for the ceaseless and untiring energy he has put forth in their behalf.  From the first day of his entering the territory, he has labored enthusiastically and in every possible way for the advancement of their interest.  He went to Oklahoma the day of the opening and built the first brick block building in the territory.  HJ was appointed by the Governor and made chairman of the Formal School Commission.  After that on account of his railroad experience with the Rock Island he was made the Washington Trustee and Treasurer of the Indian Allotment which controlled towns along the Rock Island.  Indeed there is not a single enterprise looking to the good and advancement of Guthrie with which HJ Whitley has not been identified and to which he has not rendered a powerful aid that has chiefly made them successful.  Many of the finest buildings in the city bear witness to his zeal and generous assistance.  All identify his name with the development of Guthrie.   Mr. Whitley was born in Toronto, Canada.  His father was the son of the Honorable Nicholas Whitley of Liverpool, England and his mother was the daughter of Coronal William Johnstone, an officer in the English army.   He received a practical business education.  In his early business training was a partner in a wholesale house of Whitley Partridge & Co.  In 1880 he engaged largely in banking and loan and investment business at Minneapolis, Michigan where he remained for ten years and still has large property interest.  In 1889 April 22nd he located in Guthrie and in company with Mr. George Orpant  built the first brick block in the territory know as the National Bank which they afterwards sold to McNeal & Little. In this position he knew about all of the prominent men in the Territory both democrats and republican alike.  HJ Whitley, 

 HJ Whitley, Gigi Whitley and Ross Whitley in Guthrie Oklahoma in 1889.

Posted: Saturday, September 16th, 2017 by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

“Col. Griffith lips parted, and from beneath his heavy, well waxed mustache issued salutation and words of praise for the indomitable courage, indefatigable effort and patriotic spirit of Mr. Whitley, whose record of town building along the Northern Pacific Railway and the great territory of Oklahoma made him a national benefactor.  Congratulating Hollywood upon possessing such a citizen, Col Griffith then folded up and pocketed his notes and was seated.

H J Whitley standing under the Hotel Hollywood sign to meet his guests.

“Whitley! Whitley!” from all sides, brought Mr. H. J. Whitley reluctantly to his feet, his large, smooth face radiant with blushes for the Col. Griffith’s compliments, and looking extremely young for his six feet two and broad square shoulders.  Mr. Whitley chided the genial Colonel for protesting too much and again made clear that the Colonel’s great gift and other benefactions made him the outstanding citizen of Southern California; and then explained no one could accomplish great things unless environed by the cooperative spirit of “such great men as we have with us tonight, when all things are possible.  As Mr. Whitley took his seat, General Sherman was called for, and removing his arm from the back of Mr. Sandison’s chair, he raised his portly person to state that his speech of the evening might be summed up in five words; and with a sweeping gesture that encompassed both ends of the table he said: “Behold what God hath wrought” and resumed his seat.  Mr. deLongpre was introduced and complimented Mr. Whitley.”

Reference: History of Hollywood by Edwin O Palmer page 116 (1938)

Posted: Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Over the years I have been asked many times how Hollywood got its name.  To start with I am going to share with you the way my great-grandparents said it happened.  While on their honeymoon in 1886 they rode horses out to the foothills of Hollywood.  They dismounted near the top of the hill to look at the view of the entire valley.  Along came a Chinese man riding in a wagon.  He stopped, got out of the wagon and politely bowed.  HJ Whitley asked him what he had been doing.  The man said in broken English, “Up early. Work hard. Hauly wood.”  The man’s wagon was full of wood he had collected early that day.  With that HJ had an epiphany.  He decided to name the new town he planned to build there Hollywood.  Holly would represent his British roots and Wood his Scottish ancestry.

Whitley's house on Prospect Blvd. (Hollywood Blvd)

The next day he road back to Hollywood (Cahuenga) and obtained a verbal contract to buy the four hundred eighty (480) acres from Mr. Hurd.  A handshake was used to finalize the deal.  A picture of the tract of land (subdivision map) that was purchase is above.  The center of the land is Highland and Hollywood Boulevard.  The square on the bottom right is where the Whitley Estate was located and the location where the first Hollywood Studio filmed on October 26, 1911. After securing the land HJ road over to visit with a friend Ivar Weid.  He told Ivar of his plans to build a town and what he planned to name it.  Ivar Weid then told his neighbors Daeida and Harvey Wilcox of Whitley’s plan.  It appears they liked the name too.

Harvey Wilcox purchased his land February 1, 1887.  Below is a copy of the deed recorded with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office.  As you can see at that time there was no mention of the name Hollywood.Los Angeles County Recorder  Wilcox Deed 1887

Many people have been confused by an advertisement printed by the Los Angeles Litho Company which was produced at a later date and not filed with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office.  It is not what a deed or subdivision map looks like.  In fact, the advertisement shows that the Hollywood Hotel was there in 1887.  It was not. Although the map is artistically appealing it is historically wrong. 

Over the years I have heard a variety of stories of how Daeida Wilcox named the town.  I would like to share them with you.  Since she really didn’t come up with the name I guess she just made up stories she hoped everyone would believe. 

Here is a story I received in an email from one of Harvey Henderson’s relatives:

From:                              RICHARD WARREN WELCH

Sent:                               Friday, February 08, 2013 2:53 PM    

Subject:                          Founding of Hollywood 

Hi. Sorry for not getting back to you, but this has been a crazy week and I fear that things will get crazier next week, so I'll try to answer a couple of your questions now before I get buried. The story is that Daieida was on a train either returning home to Hicksville, Ohio or coming back to California after visiting relatives and she supposedly met a woman from Scotland who mentioned the name "Hollywood" as her supposed home. That's doubtful because the Scottish name would not be Hollywood, but Holywood, which is a village in Dumfriesshires and even if it was the name of a home, even that would probably have been called Holywood. Holly grows wild in Scotland, but I have serious doubts that holly wood would be considered the proper name for a home or a village. Legend 1 shot down. 

Daieida Wilcox naming Hollywood

The next story comes from a book in 1936. I assume that is why for a long time the Hollywood Bowl had a sign with holly berries on it.   Another claim is that Daeida happened to meet a stranger on a train who lived in an Illinois estate called ‘Hollywood,’ and that was where she got the idea for the name. The Hollywood subdivision dates back to 1893.  Samuel Gross, who marketed lots to Columbian Exposition visitors, developed it.  The original subdivision was in the area south of Washington Avenue.  It appears that the date from this encounter was a little late for Daeida to have used in 1887.The tract north of Washington was owned by Edith Rockefeller McCormick, a gift from her father, John D. Rockefeller, upon her marriage to Harold F. McCormick. 

A new story has come to light. It was the name given by the wife of founder Horace H. Wilcox who named it after the "Mass of the Holy Wood of the Cross" said by Father Junipero Serra near the site.  Read more at 

According to the Hicksville Historical Society Daeida Co-founded Hollywood even before she purchased any land. How is that even possible?  They say she bought the land in 1886 but the Los Angeles County Recorder Office shows she bought it in 1887.  Summary of Accomplishments:

bullet 1886 — Co-founded Hollywood, California
bullet 1887 — Named Hollywood
bullet 1886–1914 — Led development of community, business, and the arts
bullet 1995 — Induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame

The truth is, H J Whitley named Hollywood in 1886.  

Posted: Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Photo by Flora Chou/L.A. Conservancy

Holly Hill Terrace Residence 

Located in one of Hollywood's most historic residential neighborhoods, plans for the development included height restrictions to guarantee that every home retained a view of the city below.  This residence is located in one of Hollywood's most historic residential neighborhoods, Whitley Heights. Whitley Heights was the last project of developer H. J. Whitley. He developed the area from 1918 to 1928 as an upper-middle-class, single-family residential neighborhood designed to resemble a Mediterranean hillside village. The concept of a hillside development was new to Los Angeles at the time, and the plans included graded roads, retaining walls, and flights of pedestrian steps. Height restrictions guaranteed that every home retained a view of the city below, and architectural design guidelines ensured that the neighborhood homes maintained the appearance of Mediterranean-style villas. This house on Holly Hill Terrace is designed in the Mediterranean style, featuring an L-shape plan that follows the unique configuration of the lot and an exterior clad in smooth-finished stucco. Over the years, this home has remained largely intact, with the exception of a two-story veranda added in 1941. The Conservancy holds an easement protecting the home's historic façade. It is one of two easements held by the Conservancy in Whitley Heights, along with a residence on Milner Road.

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