The History of “The Creative City” (From West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)
West Hollywood’s history goes back to the 1780s when what is now known as the Sunset Strip emerged as one of the principal routes connecting el Pueblo de Los Angeles to ranchos further west and the Pacific Ocean. In the 1880s, Mexican Dons began to sell their land to settlers from the Midwest, East Coast and European immigrants.
The railroad moved into Los Angeles in the 1890s, significantly accelerating the development of the region. The main railroad yards for the Los Angeles Railroad were located in the town of Sherman – now known as West Hollywood.
In the early 1900s, the town of Sherman chose not to incorporate into the City of Los Angeles and became notorious for the disrepair of its streets and the availability of liquor during Prohibition. Sherman thrived as a hub for rail access and benefited from the emergence of the movie industry in nearby Hollywood.
In the 1920s, Sherman became known as West Hollywood, emphasizing its relationship to its famous neighbor. West Hollywood remained unincorporated; and because of loose land-use regulations and the repeal of Prohibition, the Sunset Strip became the home of many glamorous nightclubs such as the Trocadero, the Mocambo and Ciro’s. Sunset Tower and many smaller courtyard buildings were home to such notable people as Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hughes, Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Deitrich.
By the 1950s, the glitz of Las Vegas had eclipsed the glamour of the Sunset Strip. However, in the 1960s, Sunset Boulevard revived itself as the home of a thriving new music industry. The glamorous nightclubs of the 1950s were replaced by a new generation of clubs including Whisky-a-Go-Go and The Roxy. The entertainment industry soon became vital to the economy of West Hollywood.
As early as the 1950s, the design and decorating industry had also found a home in West Hollywood in the area near Beverly and Robertson Boulevards. In the early 1970s, the original site of the railroad yards was cleared of light industrial use. The 750,000 square foot Pacific Design Center was built in 1975, and it became the anchor for the burgeoning Avenues of Art & Design.
Spurred by a desire for greater local control, a coalition of seniors and the area’s growing gay and lesbian population joined together to fight the threat to end rent control under Los Angeles County government; West Hollywood became incorporated as a City in 1984. In the last decade, the City has undertaken projects to strengthen its economy, including revitalization of the City’s East Side and approval of the Sunset Specific Plan to guide and promote quality development along historic Sunset Boulevard.