Beachwood Canyon is the gateway to the Hollywood Hills. There is little doubt that this is one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods. Check any LA visitor’s Instagram account and your sure to find plenty images of our popular sign, spreading across the hillside like a big flashy smile.
This classic LA neighborhood stretches from Franklin Avenue and bordered by Griffith Park to the north. Vine Street and Canyon Drive form the west and east boundaries.
Beachwood continues to attract residents who relish the rugged beauty of the canyon while living just a short drive from all the conveniences of modern urban life.
To most of the world, Beachwood Canyon is best known as the gateway to the Hollywood sign.
“One of the showplaces of the world.”
The iconic sign sitting atop Mt. Lee has become synomynous with Hollywood itself. But it didn’t start out that way.
The Hollywood sign began life as a promotional stunt for something else very dear to Angelenos’ hearts – real estate.
At a time when Western Avenue was named because it was the conceivable edge of the universe for Los Angeles, the foothills of Beachwood Canyon were little more than orange groves and farmland. Canyon residents were mostly deer, coyotes, foxes, hawks and their prey.
In the early 1920s, Los Angeles was in the midst of yet another real estate boom. The movie business was exploding into a global phenonema and newcomers were flocking to the city in search of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. Movie stars of the era had already begun staking out estates in the foothills.
Standing at the edge of the nascent village of Hollywood, developers Tracy Shoults and S.H. Woodruff imagined a different scene. What they saw was a new kind of neighborhood. A place where the middle class could enjoy a bucolic lifestyle with it’s “glorious scenic views” and the “freedom of the hills.”
This new neighborhood was called Hollywoodland.
Even by today’s standards, Hollywoodland was an ambitious undertaking. Backed by L.A. Times publishers Gray Otis and Harry Chandler, Shoults and Woodruff set out to build a cohesive neighborhood. They carved out winding streets along the canyon edges and built stone retaining walls dug from nearby quarrys. They added stairways connecting the parallel streets and erected the Clock Tower Gates that remain standing today.
To advertise their new creation, the builders installed 45-foot high letters spelling H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D-L-A-N-D. The original sign has long since fallen away and replaced with the new sign we have now which simply reads, Hollywood.
Artists, actors, writers and musicians flock to Beachwood Canyon
From the time of the first European settlement, southern California has attracted visionaries and free thinkers. Beachwood Canyon, in particular has enjoyed a reputation as a creative enclave that continues today. Actors, writers and musicians still make their homes among the rolling canyon streets. A few famous past residents include, Madonna, Peter Tork, Humphrey Bogart, Bela Lugosi, Heath Ledger, Jack Black and Aldous Huxley. One fairly recent newcomer to the neighborhood is a certain small bald rock star who occupies a prominent estate atop the canyon. (Hint: He is also quite a knowledgeable architecture buff and blogs regularly on tumblr.)
Despite the Hollywood pedigree, Beachwood Canyon remains a true old-fashioned neighborhood.
The Village Plaza sits at the intersection of Belden, Westshire and Beachwood Drive and serves as the de facto community center. You’ll often see residents walking their dogs to the Beachwood Cafe for a cup of coffee. Right next door to the Cafe is the the compact, but well-stocked Beachwood Market.
At the Plaza, you’ll also find a florist, a dry cleaner and a vintage curios shop. In the midst of sprawling Los Angeles, this neighborhood center is a place where the butcher knows your name and you never have to remind the dry cleaner to skip the starch.
For many, Beachwood means ‘back to nature’
Living in the Hollwood Hills means living close to nature. And that’s one of the big draws of canyon life. Hiking is to the Hollywood Hills as skiing is to Aspen. On any given day, the park trails and winding streets are dotted with residents and visitors taking in the views and quiet beauty of the hills.
To the north, Beachwood Canyon is bordered by the majestic Griffith Park, the nation’s only wilderness urban park. That means, that large swaths of parkland has been left as much as possible in its natural state, allowing the native flora and flauna to flourish. Thanks to the hard work by the Parks Department and advocacy groups such as Friends of Griffith Park, the park has continued to thrive and improve as a true wilderness area.
But hiking and horsback riding aren’t the only recreation available nearby. Beachwood Canyon offers easy access to golf, tennis and other sports on its athletic fields.
Beachwood homes evoke romance and whimsy
The original Hollywoodland development restricted architectural styles to just three types: Spanish/ Mediterranean, Normandy and Tudor. Most of these homes are still standing today and are usually recognizable by their whimsical storybook style. By the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the clean modern lines of mid-century ideas took captured homebuyers imaginations. These new styles along with better technology, allowed homes to be built on lots previously thought to be unbuildable. Look up into the canyons and you’ll see a number of these dramatic constructions. Whatever your architectural taste, you’re likely to find something to your liking here.