Editor’s note: Mary will be giving a presentation on “Studio City Before the Studio: An Afternoon of Local History” on July 30 at 3 p.m. at the Studio City branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 12511 Moorpark St. This post originally appeared in 2012.
With the name Hollywood Country Club, one would assume that a golfing club so named would be located in the actual city or hills of Hollywood, California. While a club by that name was twice attempted to be organized, it failed to materialize. In the late teens a group formed to build a new Hollywood Country Club, this time in the hills between Ventura Boulevard and what would become Mulholland Drive, in what is now Studio City, California.
The original Hollywood Country Club was organized on September 28, 1904, with the likes of General Harrison Gray Otis, H. J. Whitley, and others on the board of directors, per the September 29, 1904, Los Angeles Times, but nothing appears to have ever occurred regarding acquiring land or building a clubhouse.
The July 4, 1907, Los Angeles Times notes that a new Hollywood Country Club was organized a few days before, with officers such as E. O. Palmer and Schuyler Cole on board. This group moved quickly; they incorporated a land company to acquire 120 acres in Clauson Valley, at the head of Gower Street, and raised $10,000 in subscriptions at that first meeting. Not only would a clubhouse be constructed, but work had commenced on constructing bridle trails. Tennis courts would follow.
The July 21, 1907, Los Angeles Times reported that the group had bought surrounding property of around 45 acres in part of developer Albert Beach’s property known as De Longpre Park for $28,000, but that Beach had refunded them $10,000 towards construction. Painter Paul De Longpre had intended to build a new home here. “De Longpre Park extends from the north end of Gower Street to Cahuenga Mountain. Twenty acres at the lower end have been subdivided and extensive street improvements have been made.” Once again, nothing happened and the idea lay dormant.
Finally in 1919, plans to build a Hollywood Country Club actually led to completion. A new group, with Douglas Fairbanks and Sydney Chaplin serving on the board of directors, secured a $200,000 option on 140 acres in the area near North Hollywood, with half a mile frontage on Ventura Boulevard and heading up to the top of the canyon, adjoining what is now Coldwater Canyon Boulevard. This group arranged with owner W. P. Holt, the “father of the Imperial Valley, the President of the club’s board, and the origin for the character Jefferson Worth in the novel “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” to acquire the land and employ Holt’s personal estate as the clubhouse. The property consisted of Holt’s twelve room mansion, six bungalows, and assorted outbuildings. Architect F. A. Peebles would design a eighteen hole golf course for men and a nine hole course for women.
As the August 1, 1919, Los Angeles Times reported, “Besides the golf links, twelve tennis courts are planned, together with a polo field, fully equipped gymnasium, shooting boxes for the gun club, handball and basketball courts, and an open-air plunge, 60 x 120 feet. A fully-equipped children’s playground and nursery, with matron and assistants in charge, will be installed. A great deal of landscaping has been done on the property; its beauties are diversified and include two shaded pools with water falls and numerous secluded nooks convertible into tea gardens. The ground floor area of the clubhouse is 60×90 feet. The lounge, library, music-room and large dining hall are on the first floor. On the second are accommodations for women, with several individual shower baths and individual lockers sufficient to take care of 200 feminine members. The men’s dressing-rooms and lockers are adjacent to the main building.”
Construction and renovation swiftly commenced, and by February 1920 the Club was hosting events such as a turkey dinner and dance for the Hollywood Business Men’s Club, with child actors Virginia Lee Corbin and Ben Alexander acting as flower girl and cigarette page, and entertainment such as songs and vaudeville acts interspersed around dancing in the Garden Court Garage Service Station would include such performers as future actress Lina Basquette.
A year later, the club enlarged their clubhouse by adding two wings, one to house a 45×70 foot ballroom, and the other would include an enlarged cafe downstairs and a main dining room upstairs, all following the Spanish design of the building. Membership already totaled more than 650, with a 700 limit. Only eight film members belonged, one of which was Wallace Reid. An April 11, 1921, Los Angeles Times society story described in detail the beautiful surroundings and buildings. “There is, for instance, a shady tea garden, embellished with Japanese ponds and rustic furniture…Some of the holes are way up in an enchanted canyon, while others display discreet charms in full view of the busy boulevard…The clubhouse boasts an upstairs sacred to femininity–a soothing gray and old rose writing-room, an art-y mauve and beige card room and violently orange futuristic lounge room…” The article also mentioned that the club possessed “…about 200 acres of enchanted hills…in addition to another 200 acres for golf courses, etc.” The club had also purchased an adjacent orchard, and was building picturesque bungalows that members could stay in for weekend parties.
By 1922, far-sighted business bought red-hot property adjacent to Ventura Boulevard, as a building boom along its length expanded. Subdividing would soon follow. In 1923, the Hollywood County Club entered the act, partnering with Sunday, Merrick & Ruddick, Inc. to subdivide the club’s land not required for golfing or buildings. As the Times described it, 110 lots, ranging in size from three-tenths to two and one-quarter acres, went for sale on January 14, 1923, all of them hillside sites with views of the San Fernando Valley and the club below. This development tied in with other businessmen’s dreams of turning the land along Ventura Boulevard “into a residential district they are describing as “America’s most beautiful suburb.” All lots received water, lights, and gas piped in, and wide hard-surfaced streets were constructed on the hillsides.
While construction boomed, golf course usage exploded, along with ballroom and dining room rentals. In September 1929, Hollywood Country Club began constructing a new men’s clubhouse and locker building of Spanish design, located with a commanding position overlooking Ventura Boulevard. The club hosted many Los Angeles wide golf tournaments for both men and women for years, as well as groups as diverse as the American Society of Cinematographers, Paramount Pictures, RKO, Universal, and casting agents.
By 1938, however, the Country Club closed and began subdividing their land. Frank H. Ayres & Sons developed the land under the name Hollywood Country Club Estates, fronting Ventura Boulevard at Coldwater Canyon. The subdividers called this area “the 100% subdivision” in spring 1938 ads in the Los Angeles Times, noting that the area was approved for F.H.A. loans. To help goose sales in 1940, the development allowed a model home called “The House in the Sun” designed by Architect Sumner Spaulding and built by Kersey Kinsey to be constructed at 12030 Dickens Street. Security First National Trust and Savings Bank, the American Brass Co., the Douglas Fir Plywood Association, and the California Redwood Association sponsored it, while Bullock’s interior decoration department filled it with tropical modern style furniture. The Southern California Gas Co. helped design the kitchen and breakfast room, providing all gas appliances. The March 10, 1940, Los Angeles Times noted that it had been bought by Martin Pollard for $13,000, including most of the furnishings. During the seven weeks prior to its sale, over 30,000 people visited the building.
Virtually nothing remains of the Country Club today. Harvard-Westlake School occupies a big chunk of land, particularly the location of the clubhouse, but they claim to possess nothing of the Club. Fairway Drive exists up in the hills, looking down at the land the elegant course once occupied.