Monday, February 1, 2010

Crime & Death in West Hollywood

Celebs, Wannabe Celebs, Tourists, Mobsters and Prostitutes all lived and/or partied throughout West Hollywood's modern history, mostly along the legendary Sunset Strip. This month LA Kompany will feature images of Crime and Death from the history of West Hollywood.

By 1780, what became the "Sunset Strip" was the major connecting road for El Pueblo de Los Angeles and all ranches westward to the Pacific Ocean. The land went through various owners and names in the next one hundred years, with names such as La Brea and Plummer listed in the historical record. Most of the area was part of the Rancho La Brea, and eventually came under the ownership of the Hancock family.

In the last years of the nineteenth century, the first large development in what would become West Hollywood — the town of Sherman — was established by Moses Sherman and his partners in the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway, an interurban line which would become part of the Pacific Electric Railway system. Sherman became the location of the railroad's main shops, yards and car barns. Many working-class employees of the railroad took up residence in the town. It was during this time that the city began to earn its reputation as a loosely-regulated, liquor-friendly spot for eccentric people wary of government interference. The town chose not to incorporate with Los Angeles and instead adopted “West Hollywood” as an informal name to borrow the glamour and celebrity from the new movie colony in Hollywood.

For many years, the area that is now the City of West Hollywood was an unincorporated area in the midst of the City of Los Angeles, but fell under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County. Because gambling was illegal in the city of Los Angeles but legal in the county, the 1920s saw the proliferation of many nightclubs and casinos along the Sunset Strip (which starts and ends within West Hollywood borders) that did not fall within the Los Angeles city limits. As a result, these businesses were immune from the heavy-handed enforcement of the LAPD. (The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was and remains in charge of policing the district.)

Movie people were attracted to this less restricted county area and a number of architecturally fine apartment houses and apartment hotels were built. Movie fans throughout the world knew that Ciro's, the Mocambo, the Trocadero, the Garden of Allah, the Chateau Marmont and the Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard were places where movie stars could be seen.

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