|Hobart Johnstone Whitley|
October 7, 1847|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Died||June 3, 1931
near Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Education||Toronto Business College|
|Spouse(s)||Margaret Virginia Whitley|
Hobart Johnstone Whitley (October 7, 1847 – June 3, 1931), also known as H.J. Whitley is the "Father of Hollywood", was a real estate developer who helped create the Hollywood subdivision in Los Angeles, Southern California. He and his wife, Margaret Virginia (Gigi) Whitley named the town while on their honeymoon in 1886.
Hobart Johnstone (H.J.) Whitley was born in Toronto, Canada, the seventh and youngest son of Joseph Whitley and Eleanor Johnstone. He attended Toronto Business College. Whitley became naturalized citizen of the United States in the 1870s. Whitley moved to Chicago and owned a hardware store and candy store. He became interested in land development and was elected to the board of directors of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad. Whitley married his second wife, Margaret Virginia Whitley (Gigi) in the spring of 1886.
Whitley became one of the nation's most successful land developers. During the westward construction of frontier railroads from the late 1870s to the early 1890s he founded scores of towns in the Oklahoma Territory, Dakotas, Texas and California. Whitley was a good friend of Theodore Roosevelt while in the Dakota Territory. Whitley was at the first Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, April 22 where he claimed property. He built the first brick block building in the territory and was asked by the local people to be the first Governor of Oklahoma. He platted the towns and built brick and stone business buildings in Oklahoma City, El Reno, Chickasha, Enid, Medfore, and other cities on the Rock Island Railroad. Whitley traveled to Washington D.C. where he persuaded the U.S. Congress to allow the City of Guthrie, Oklahoma to be the new capital of the state of Oklahoma. It is estimated that Whitley founded over 140 towns in his lifetime.
Besides his land developments he was also the President of the National Loan & Trust Company, Guthrie, Oklahoma, Vice President of Home Savings Bank, President of First National Bank of Van Nuys, State Bank of Owensmouth and Bank of Lankershim; General Manager of the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, principal in the Bank of Hollywood, The Whitley Land Company and owner of HJ Whitley Company (Jewelers).
Whitley donated large parcels of land and money for civic use. The donations were used to finance public schools, libraries, parks, landscaping, streets, transportation, lighting and churches.
In the mid-1880s Whitley arrived in Southern California. He was well known as a land developer and many tried to follow on his coattails. As president and major shareholder of the Los Angeles Pacific Boulevard and Development Company he orchestrated the building of the Hollywood Hotel, the opening of the Ocean View Tract and construction of a Bank which were located on the corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland. The name Hollywood was coined by H. J. Whitley,. He and his wife, Gigi, came up with the name while on their honeymoon in 1886.
Hobart Whitley built a hotel and a bank as the foundation most every town he developed. The most prominent hotel that he is supposed to have built was the Hollywood Hotel on the corner of Hollywood and Highland Boulevards, although his name is not mentioned in the newspaper accounts of the building as one of the principals.
HJ Whitley had a quest to make a very fine residential development on the hill of his share of the Hollywood property. He had to bring new ideas to create a development on the side of the hill in the fast changing times. This was at the end of the Victorian culture. Homes were built with the living up stairs for the views of the ocean and valley. He employed architects to go and study the hill developments of Spain and Italy. Whitley sought to create a masterpiece of architecture to be preserved for all times. In 1982 the U.S. Government named Whitley Heights a National Historic District.
San Fernando Valley
From the moment Whitley saw the San Fernando Valley, he began discussing it with his friends in Los Angeles business community. The role of Whitley, here, is tempered by other factors. It took the beginning of the City of Los Angeles' Owens River Aqueduct in 1905, and proposed terminus in the San Fernando Valley to inspire Whitley and other powerful Los Angeles citizens, including the Otis-Chandler family, that owned the Los Angeles Times to form a syndicate to buy the south half of the San Fernando Valley in 1909.
Whitley's syndicate purchased from wheat magnate, Isaac Newton Van Nuys the 47,500-acre (192 km2) ranch comprising nearly the entire south half or the San Fernando Valley. The price was $2,500,000 - just under $53 an acre. From this land he built the towns of Van Nuys, Reseda (formerly Marian) and Canoga Park (formerly Owensmouth). In one of the most bold "boomer" sales techniques, Owensmouth (now Canoga Park) simply borrows an English tradition and suggests that the Owens River, some 200 miles away, had simply been redirected to the San Fernando Valley.
A perceptive planner, Whitley brought to this San Fernando Valley-wide project a 20-mile long Pacific Electric railway, and a parallel "$500,000 boulevard", with pavement so unusual for 1911 that it was a "no speed limit" highway.
Whitley became president of three San Fernando Valley banks—two in the towns he started, Van Nuys and Owensmouth.
HJ Whitley took the lead in building the city of Corcoran, California. He purchased 32,000 acres (129 km2) to start the development and moved a member of his real estate firm, J. W. Guiberson, to the area. HJ named all the city streets Avenues. The main street of the community is named in his honor. During a visit to the area in 1905 he would have see a blacksmith shop, small store, scattered homes and a lush, untapped vista with herds of grazing wild hogs, horses and steers.
Whitley’s last development was never finished. He bought thousands of acres and started the town of Whitley Gardens. It is about ten miles (16 km) east of Paso Robles, California.
HJ and Gigi Whitley traveled seventeen times to Europe, the Middle East and Asia for business and pleasure. One time he brought back the coveted Egyptian cotton seed to be planted in Corcoran, California. He bought precious stones and jewelry to be sold in his Los Angeles City jewelry store, HJ Whitley Company.
Whitley died on June 3, 1931 at the Whitley Park Country Club near Hollywood. He was buried in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, today named Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood Forever Memorial Park. On his grave site it is inscribed "The Father of Hollywood".
- Margaret Virginia Whitley Diary Naming Hollywood 1886 http://www.thefatherofhollywood.com/HJ%201886%20name%20Hollywood0002.JPG
- "Hollywoodland H. J. Whitley."
- Whitley Papers (1889-1946).
- Gaelyn Whitley Keith, "The Father of Hollywood" Tate Publishing & Enterprises(2010) http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-61663-475-9
- Los Angeles Herald (August 31, 1951)
- California Historian Volume 54, Number 4 published by Conference of California Historical Societies (2008)http://www.californiahistorian.com/magazine.html
- Los Angeles Times Magazine (January 4, 1987)
- California and Californians by Rockwell Dennis Hunt and Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez (1930)
- Jonathan Magazine http://www.thefatherofhollywood.com/Jonathans.pdf (March 2009)
- Cahuenga Valley Sentinel (May 7, 1904).
- Hollywood Citizen (Spring Addition March 4, 1914).
- LYCOS RETRIEVER http://www.lycos.com/info/al-christie.html
- Office of Historic Resources http://www.preservation.lacity.org/hpoz/la/whitley-heights
- Architectural Digest (April 1996)
- Discover Hollywood Magazine (Spring 2010) http://www.discoverhollywood.com/Publications/Discover-Hollywood/2010/Issue-Spring-2010/Whitley-Heights.aspx
- Owensmouth Baby by Catherine Mulholland (1987)http://www.thefatherofhollywood.com/TheOwensmouthBabybyCatherineMulholland.pdf
- William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles by Catherine Mulholland (2000)http://www.amazon.com/dp/0520234669
- Keith (2006)
- Discover Hollywood Magazine (Spring 2010) http://www.whitleyheights.org/about9.html
- Los Angeles Times (January 13, 2009) http://www.whitleyheights.org/about8.html
- Los Angeles Times 1-13-2008 http://www.whitleyheights.org/about8.html
- Architectural Digest http://www.whitleyheights.org/about1.html
- The Van Nuys News (July 6, 1923) http://www.thefatherofhollywood.com/Van%20Nuys%20News.JPG.
- "Death Calls H.J. Whitley. Real Estate Man Known as "Father of Hollywood". Pioneer in Many Southland Developments.". Los Angeles Times. June 4, 1931. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
- "Whitley Dead at 83". New York Times. June 5, 1931. "H. J. Whitley, California real estate man known as the "Father of Hollywood ..."
- Gaelyn Whitley Keith, The Father of Hollywood Tate Publishing and Enterprises, ISBN 978-1-61663-475-9