Untitled Document
Untitled Document

Discovering West Hollywood’s Rich and Entertaining History

How West Hollywood was Born

The Rise of West Hollywood:
WeHo’s Rich and Colorful History


Untitled Document

Updated on Apr 16 2024 11:37am

Visit West Hollywood California
Visit West Hollywood California
Visit West Hollywood California

Explore the fascinating history of West Hollywood, from its origins as a railway town to its emergence as a glamorous nightlife destination and a hub for counterculture and marginalized communities.

West Hollywood, California is a young and vibrant community with a colorful and entertaining past that stretches back over 300 years. Its history began in 1886 when a real estate developer and entrepreneur named Moses Hazeltine Sherman bought a portion of Rancho La Brea from Hancock to construct segments of two electric railways. At the intersection of the two railways, he established the headquarters of his Los Angeles Pacific Railway Co. and a small residential area for railway workers—a settlement he named "Sherman."

The Town of Sherman

In the early 20th century, the town of Sherman became an attractive residential area for film stars working in nearby Hollywood. The emergence of the motion picture industry soon brought the movie business into the city itself. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks established the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios near Santa Monica Boulevard, which still exists today as The Lot. In 1925, the inhabitants of Sherman voted to change the name to West Hollywood to emphasize its relationship to its glamorous neighbor. However, West Hollywood still technically remained an unincorporated region of Los Angeles County.

Unincorporated West Hollywood

Due to its unincorporated status, West Hollywood existed outside the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department and lacked a police department of its own. The region became a hotbed of liquor and nightlife. The dirt road at the northern border of West Hollywood, which served as the main commuter route between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, became known as Sunset Blvd. Nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants sprung up along The Sunset Strip. Gambling, which was legal in Los Angeles County but not in the City of Los Angeles, brought money and the attention of mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and Micky Cohen, regulars at Strip nightclubs like Ciro's (now The Comedy Store) and the Melody Room (now Viper Room). In the Golden Age of Hollywood, West Hollywood was the swankiest, most glamorous nightlife destination in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area.

Sunset Strip

West Hollywood added to its growing legend throughout the following decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, it became a major gathering place for the counterculture, with hippies, musicians, and artists flooding the streets. Acts like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Elton John won over crowds in emerging music venues such as The Troubadour, The Whisky a Go Go, and The Roxy. The Strip continued to be a cultural center for punk rock and New Wave during the late 1970s and evolved into the epicenter of the colorful glam metal and heavy metal scenes during the 1980s. Groups including Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Guns N Roses redefined the standard for excess, with West Hollywood serving as their playground.

Land of Inclusion

In the 1960s and 70s, West Hollywood became a refuge for marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals and Russian Jewish immigrants. As rent prices soared in the 80s, a coalition of these groups fought for incorporation, successfully creating the City of West Hollywood with an openly gay majority on the city council. The new city quickly became a beacon of progressive values and LGBTQ+ culture, passing rent control measures and leading the charge for social change.

Today, West Hollywood is a thriving city with a population of 36,000+ and a reputation as a hot spot for the entertainment industry. Its vibrant nightlife, world-renowned events, and innovative community continue to attract trendsetters and creative individuals from all over the country.

West Hollywood Visitor Guide
Untitled Document
Untitled Document