During my L.A. trip this past summer, I was left to my own devices for a day of exploring whatever I could get to off of the metro. Elissa recommended getting off at Hollywood/Vine and taking a walk through Hollywood Boulevard, and this being my first time in Los Angeles, of course I was gungho. In order to describe my few hours spent wandering this famous street, I thought I’d try to provide a bit of a virtual walk through.
To begin, I stepped off the train at Hollywood/Vine, and immediately saw film reel decorations lining the walls. It’s really fun, and if you’re a movie buff who’s been wanting to see L.A. for a long time you’ll appreciate the thought that went into creating this. When you finally walk out into the street, you’ll notice the Pantages Theatre almost right across from you.
While its name comes from a less than admirable founder, the Art Deco style was designed by B. Marcus Priteca and opened in 1930. It initially showed movies and vaudeville acts, hosted the Academy Awards for ten years after Howard Hughes purchased it in 1949, and now acts as a venue for live shows.
Grab a cold drink at Starbucks, start walking, and you’ll immediately notice the whole boulevard is lined with the Walk of Fame.
The idea behind the walk was conceived by Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president, E.M. Stuart in 1953. The walk is meant to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.” Everyone from singers to actors to directors to producers and more are honored with a star. Once a star is placed, it will never be removed. You’ll have fun finding names you know while also looking at the different architecture. Just watch where you’re going!
As you walk along, you’ll begin to notice a theme among the buildings. There’s this stunning, detailed architecture, and plastered on top of it are very modern franchises or stores. This particular guy below is a Spanish Colonial Revival Building, designed in 1927. The details, motifs, and ornamentation are a stark contrast to the very modern design of the stores it holds.
Next door is a bright aqua Art Deco styled building from 1928 that houses costume stores designed by the Architect Newberry Company.
One of my favorites is the World of Wonder Production building. Also Art Deco, designed by S. Norton and F. Wallis in 1930, it once housed the Directors Guild of America, and now holds WoW Productions, famous for the RuPaul franchise. In a theme of contradictions, I just love that this building gives dollhouse vibes with sky blue coloring and feminine details but is the office space of a company known for its more erotic and sexual content.
Walk a bit farther and you’ll see Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. It was built by Meyer and Holler in 1921 and was inspired by America’s fascination with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. The idea of a Hollywood Premiere like we imagine (red carpets, spotlights, limousines) began here with Robin Hood.
Built right next door is the Pig ‘N Whistle. Its creation in 1927, by Morgan Walls and Clement, came at a time when theaters didn’t have concession stands. It’s seen as one of the few remainders of Old Hollywood. Apparently Clark Gable used to a be regular. Ahem. Imagine the place full of stars decked out in their premiere outfits drinking sodas before they head over the Egyptian Theatre!
Down the road you’ll see a Georgian Revival building with gable roofs designed by Arthur R. Kelly in 1922. It was once known as the Christie Hotel and is famous for being Hollywood’s first modern luxury hotel. It is now owned by the Church of Scientology.
Soon you’ll pass by Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum and a retro looking souvenir shop.
Side by side you’ll find the El Capitan Theatre (1926) and Jimmy Kimmel’s current show home (which isn’t pictured because….for some reason I didn’t take a picture). While the outside is a Spanish Colonial design, the inside was inspired by East India. It’s considered one of the three themed theaters on the boulevard (with the Egyptian and Chinese theater).
Jimmy Kimmel’s show’s home is in an old Masonic Temple and was created by John C. Austin around 1921 in a Neoclassical design. He’s the same guy behind Griffith Park Observatory and city hall.
Down the way you’ll find the Roosevelt Hotel. It’s pretty famous in terms of Hollywood history. Named after Teddy, built by Fisher, Lake, & Traver in 1926, designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style, it was also home to the very first Academy Awards. It’s seen the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, and other stars as well as has been the backdrop to many movies. Also it may or may not have some famous ghosts hanging around. You neverrrr know!
Continuing along, is this stretch of yellow. There isn’t a lot of information about it on the internet, and I don’t think its architecture is particularly famous. However I dug the McDonald-esque color scheme, especially in the middle of the day.
Originally only five stories in 1925, the Hollywood Professional Building Residences or Seventy 46 is now 8 stories high. Its style is Gothic Revival, and apparently it was once home to the Academy behind the Academy Awards. While Reagan was the SAG president, its offices were there as well. It’s now an apartment building.
I turned around once I reached La Brea Gateway on a traffic island between Hollwyood Boulevard and La Brea. Here you’ll find the Beatles, Elvis Presley, fallen L.A.P.D. Hollywood Officers, and Walk of Fame stars.
Your view looking back at the boulevard will look something like this:
As you walk back down the other side, you’ll notice a seemingly out of place, little building set back. It’s called the Wise Able Building and was once the SAG headquarters. Now it’s the home office to the Scientology’s Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) organization.
Even without its flamboyant design, you probably noticed the TCL Chinese Theatre on your walk towards the traffic island because it’s the one with the huge crowd of people surrounding it. Opened in 1927 and designed by Meyer & Holler, it takes inspiration from a, you guessed, Chinese Opera House. Because I was very tired and very hot at this point, I didn’t stick around to try and mosey my way through the crowds, but as you might guess, this is where the famous cemented hand prints of various stars are located.
Make sure to spend some time in the Hollywood & Highland Center. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going shopping here (sales tax in other states is much lower), it is a pretty gorgeous center in that majestic kind of way. The design is an ode to the 1916 Intolerance’s Babylon set, and it’s built over the old location of the Hollywood Hotel. Oh, anddddd….
You can see the Hollywood Sign from here! It wasn’t too crowded when I went, so you can be sure to get a pretty good view without too much of the hassle.
Connected to the center is the Dolby Theatre, formerly the Kodak Theatre. This is where all the big Hollywood events are held now, and you’ve definitely heard it mentioned multiple times in passing (either as Dolby or Kodak). Designed by the Rockwell Group, it’s pretty much a baby building when it comes to the boulevard, considering it was only opened in 2001.
Further along you’ll see Hollywood’s First National Bank. Designed by Meyer & Holler in 1927, it’s a mix of Gothic and Art Deco. Someone once told me bank designs are always so intricate or well thought out because wouldn’t you feel better putting your money in a fancy building rather than a dumpy one? Unfortunately, the building has been vacant for quite a while.
I couldn’t find much about this building, but I absolutely loved the details on it. Plus the juxtaposition between the architecture and the Juicy Burgers signage was too rich to not include. If I had to pick one picture to explain the vibe of this street, it would this shot.
If you’re hungry at this point, you can check out Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill. It’s going to be a 100 in a few years! This has been a spot where deals were made, authors were wined and dined towards script writing, and future stars were debated upon.
You’ll soon spot another remarkable building, and like much of the more unique architecture, the Geisha House was shut down after lasting only a decade. For a small time the Japanese restaurant was a celebrity hotspot.
Another place I thought was interesting, but doesn’t see to have much about it is the Station Food Market building.
While the World of Wonder Production building is my favorite, the Hudson Apartments, formerly known as the Hillview Hollywood Apartments, does give it a close run for its money. Created in 1917 by the Tifal brothers, I just love the pink, dollhouse design. It’s a Mediterranean style and was built so actors could be closer to the studios (the guys who wanted it were the founders of Paramount and MGM). The who’s who of silent film stars lived there, and Charlie Chaplin was once even the proprietor. Nearby the apartment is the Pacific Theater which was changed into a church.
And back towards the Hollywood/Vine metro stop, you’ll see the Capitol Records Tower, peeking out, but wholly conspicuous. Opened in 1956 and designed by Welton Becket, it stands out on the boulevard and is impossible to miss. It’s meant to resemble a stack of records on a turntable.
I missed a ton of spots, but in my defense I was running on Starbucks and smoothies all day (I’m not good at stopping and eating properly when I’m left to my own devices). Hollywood Boulevard is an interesting place where the classic collides with the modern, sometimes the best of each, sometimes the not so best. All at once it was beautiful and grungy, a shadow of the past glory and a total representative of the now, a step into history and a reminder of the present. In short, a total contradiction of architecture and franchise in one, long, historical street. Of course I’m not patient or good enough at taking notes along the way so I owe a lot of retracing to Google Maps and this site.
Let me know if you’ve got any cool stories about the boulevard or if I’ve totally messed up one of the facts!
Words and Photographs by Samantha