The Other Hollywood Florida's East Coast Renaissance

The Other Hollywood

 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.  

 Rapid Growth

 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.  

 Natural Disaster

 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.  

 Population Spurt

 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.