In 1853, one adobe hut stood on the site that became Hollywood. By 1870, an agricultural community flourished in the area with thriving crops. A locally popular etymology is that the name “Hollywood” traces to the ample stands of native Toyon or “California Holly”, that cover the hillsides with clusters of bright red berries each winter. But this and accounts of the name coming from imported holly then growing in the area, are not confirmed.
The name Hollywood was coined by H. J. Whitley, the Father of Hollywood. He came up with the name while honeymooning with his wife, Gigi in 1886, according to Margaret Virginia Whitley’s memoir. Whitley arranged to buy the 500 acre E.C. Hurd ranch and disclosed to him his plans for the land. They agreed on a price and Hurd agreed to sell at a later date. Before Whitley got off the ground with Hollywood, plans for the new town had spread to General Harrison Gray Otis, Mr Hurd and his wife, Whitley’s wife Gigi, Mrs. Daeida Wilcox, and numerous others through the mill of gossip and land speculation.
Daeida Wilcox learned the name “Hollywood” from Gigi Whitley as they travelled on the same train from Los Angeles to the upper Midwest. Upon hearing that Whitley had planned to develop the adjacent land into the town of Hollywood, Daeida recommended the same name to her husband, H. H. Wilcox. The couple laid out and subdivided his 160 acre farmwhich bordered the east side of Whitley’s land, in 1887. On February 1, 1887, Harvey filed a deed and map of property he sold with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office. It is also speculated that Harvey Wilcox had learned of the name Hollywood from his neighbor in Holly Canyon (not Lake Hollywood)Ivar Weid. Harvey wanted to be the first to record it on a deed, and did so in 1887. The early real-estate boom busted that same year, and Hollywood began to grow slowly. Due to its highly favorable climate,
Gregory William’s book, The Story of Hollywood (see bibliography), details how Hollywood developed as a rural suburb of homes and small farms. The land was used for agriculture before the Hollywood idea began, and it continued largely that way. It seemed anything could grow there, as farms produced citrus and tropical fruit, vegetables, and flowers on small farms for the next 25 years.
By 1900, the region, still called Cahuenga, had a post office, newspaper, hotel and two markets, along with a population of 500. Los Angeles, with a population of 100,000 people at the time, lay 10 miles (16 km) east through the citrus groves. A single-track streetcar line ran down the middle of Prospect Avenue from it, but service was infrequent and the trip took two hours. The old citrus fruit packing house would be converted into a livery stable, improving transportation for the inhabitants of Hollywood.