A short history of WeHo: Part 2 of 3

September 27, 2012

A short history of WeHo IN THREE PARTS – See the video made by DohenyLLC, Paul Wagner and Chris Pyle at the bottom

See part one here…

See part three here…

This 1916 photo shows that the Union Film Company shot movies on the land on which the West h Hollywood Park now stands. Click the image for a larger view showing the "of Sherman" on the wagon's side. Photo courtesy Arcadia Publishing Company's "Images of America: West Hollywood by WeHo News editor Ryan Gierach.


The City of West Hollywood, covering 1.9 square miles, has a population of approximately 35,000 residents.

The city is bordered by Hollywood Hills on the north, the Fairfax District on the south, Hollywood on the east, and Beverly Hills on the west.

The city was incorporated as an independent city on November 29, 1984 and became the first city in America to have a majority of gays on the City Council.

West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt a Domestic Partnership Ordinance in 1985 to provide equal rights for domestic & married partners in the city.

Due to the vibrant, creative and diverse residences and businesses, “The Creative City” was chosen as West Hollywood’s official motto.

During the 1910s and 20s…

For many years, the area that is now the City of West Hollywood was an unincorporated area in the midst of Los Angeles.

Because gambling was illegal in the City of Los Angeles, but still legal in Los Angeles County, the 1920s saw the proliferation of many casinos, night clubs, etc., along Sunset Boulevard.

This 1922 aerial shot shows that West Hollywood's Pickford/Fairbanks Studio (soon to become MGM, United Pictures International and currently The Lot) stood at the very frontier of Los Angeles. Click for full size. Photo courtesy Arcadia Publishing Company's "Images of America: West Hollywood by WeHo News editor Ryan Gierach.

These businesses were immune from the sometimes heavy-handed law-enforcement of the L.A. Police Department.

The movie industry was established by German and Russian speaking Jewish immigrants in West Hollywood, where the White Anglo Saxon Protestants (D.W. Griffith chief among them) moved into the WASPy temperance ville of Hollywood.

Much of the profits were used to build row houses in the town of Sherman to provide affordable housing for the extended Eastern European families of thse who created what would become some of the most prestigious film studios in history, among them, Metro Goldwyn Meyer and Paramount.

West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was, in large part, a big reason that nightclubs exist in America.

The Sunset Strip was lined with speakeasies, brothels and gambling clubs during the prohibition era due to its bohemian history and the lax (some would say crooked) law enforcement by the LA County Sheriff.

Gangsters ruled the roost; mobsters Mickey Cohen, Bugsy Siegel and Myer Lansky controlled most of the nefarious activity.

West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip clubs, seeing that they now had to provide entertainment to females (who they had never before catered to) began offering live music and even dance floors – the beginnings of today’s nightclubs.

Since West Hollywood was unincorporated and less restrictive than Hollywood or Beverly Hills, from the 20s to the 40s lavish nightclubs like "Trocadero," "Mocambo," and "Ciro's" sprouted up on the Sunset Strip to cater to the entertainment needs of the movie industry.

Indeed, things were so loose that one nightclub hosted Nat King Cole nightly performances to a mixed (gasp) crowd nd other nightclubs even offered drag shows.

Gangsters ruled the roost; mobsters Mickey Cohen (pictured here), Bugsy Siegel and Myer Lansky controlled most of the nefarious activity. Photo courtesy Arcadia Publishing Company's "Images of America: West Hollywood by WeHo News editor Ryan Gierach.

Ciro's had frequent visitors that included Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Sidney Poitier, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Former President Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney, Cary Grant, George Raft, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Judy Garland, June Allyson, Dick Powell, Jimmy Stewart, Peter Lawford, Lana Turner, and many others. 

These Sunset Blvd. clubs allowed performers to blend gender and sexual roles, something not tolerated in other nearby incorporated cities.

The area remained Sherman until 1926 when, trying to attach itself to the world renowned film capitol of Hollywood, a vote of the residents renamed the unincorporated area West Hollywood.

The gay nightlife flourished during the Hollywood Golden Era of the 1930s-40s.

There were rules prohibiting same-sex couples or single people from coming in the door, but once in and paired up, no one took issue with whom you left, spawning a tradition of “beards” for gays and lesbians that exists in the entertainment industry to this day (think Will and Jada, Tom Cruise and whoever).

During his first visit to Hollywood, President John F. Kennedy dined at Ciro's.

Visits here guaranteed celebrities would appear in gossip columns written by Hedda Harper and Louella Parsons.

As cars became more popular and more roads were created, automobile and oil companies became very powerful. The electric railways over time disappeared.

Real estate in West Hollywood became more expensive.

The West Hollywood Sunset Strip was America's adult entertainment destination until Las Vegas took over that role in the 1950s when Bugsy Siegel got the assignment from the mob to create “Sin City,” and a new “Strip,” in the desert.

Demetrious Greer for Doheny LLC contributed to this story…

See the video made by DohenyLLC, Paul Wagner and Chris Pyle below…

Sources:  Wikipedia, aboutweho.com, gay-los-angeles.com, wehonews.com, city-data.com, westhollywoodes.com, Architecture Tours L.A. Guidebook by Laura Massino Smith, More Hollywood Homes by Mike Oldham, Images of America – West Hollywood by Ryan Gierach.