H. J. Whitley

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Hobart Johnstone Whitley
Born(1847-10-07)October 7, 1847[1]
DiedJune 3, 1931(1931-06-03) (aged 83)
Burial placeHollywood Memorial Cemetery[2][3]
EducationToronto Business College
Known forLand development in California
SpouseMargaret Virginia Whitley
Parent(s)Joseph Whitley
Eleanor Johnstone[1]

Hobart Johnstone Whitley (October 7, 1847 – June 3, 1931) was a Canadian-American businessman and real estate developer. Whitley is best known for helping create the Hollywood subdivision in Los Angeles. He is among those known as the "Father of Hollywood."[3][4][5][6]

Early life[edit]

Whitley was born in Toronto, the seventh and youngest son of Joseph Whitley and Eleanor Johnstone.[1] He grew up in Flint, Michigan, and attended Toronto Business College. Whitley became a naturalized citizen of the United States in the 1870s.[7]

In 1887, Whitley married his second wife, Margaret Virginia Ross.[8]

Early career[edit]

Whitley moved to Chicago,[when?] where he owned a hardware store and candy store. He became interested in land development, became a land agent for the Rock Island Railroad and was elected to its board of directors. He plotted and organized towns in the Cherokee Strip, and when Oklahoma became a state in 1912 he "declined the first governorship."[7][9]



Original 480-acre map of H J Whitley's property developed by his company, Los Angeles Pacific Boulevard and Development Company. Highland Avenue runs through the center of the property. The square at the lower right hand corner is the Whitley estate.

Whitley came to California in 1893; the next year, 1894, he established the HJ Whitley Jewelry Store in Los Angeles.[8][10]

Hollywood was then a rural settlement of eighteen families; Whitley envisioned Hollywood "as a thriving suburb of Los Angeles." He subdivided 400 acres of open fields and gardens into a residential section, and more families came here to live."[9]

Whitley became a major shareholder, with Harrison Gray Otis and George W. Hoover, of the Los Angeles Pacific Boulevard and Development Company.[11][12] He orchestrated the opening of the Ocean View Tract and construction of a bank located on the corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland.[citation needed]

Whitely built the Hollywood Hotel on the same Hollywood and Highland corner, with George W. Hoover as builder. Construction was completed in February 1903.[12][13][14]

The neighborhood of Whitley Heights in the Hollywood Hills originated as a residential housing development financed by Whitley.[15]

Whitley, along with Charles E. Toberman, has been called "The Father of Hollywood."[16][17][5][18] The first reference to Whitley by that title was in 1905.[6]

Corcoran, California[edit]

Whitley took the lead in building the city of Corcoran, California. He purchased over 3,000 acres (12 km2) to start the development, and was able to control the town's development through an interlocking set of companies that he controlled.[19]

Whitley Gardens, California[edit]

Whitley's last development was never finished. He bought thousands of acres and started the town of Whitley Gardens.[citation needed] It is about ten miles (16 km) east of Paso Robles, California. Around 1924, as Los Angeles Times columnist Lee Shippey put it:

Whitley became a Paso Robles enthusiast, after the waters had given him new strength. He bought 48,000 acres of ranch lands there and dreams of putting through one more great development project. He can't understand how fine fertile land with water on it, on a state highway and within reach of ocean winds can still be bought for around $50 an acre.[20]

It was said that Whitley had amassed "a private fortune running into the millions" but "most of this wealth dwindled in [this] one unfortunate investment at Paso Robles."[9]

Other projects[edit]

In 1905, he and others began the development of 47,000 acres of land in the San Joaquin Valley and 50,000 acres in the San Fernando Valley.[9]

In 1909 he formed the Suburban Homes Company, a syndicate, along with Harry Chandler, H. G. Otis, M. H. Sherman and O. F. Brandt.[21] Henry E. Huntington extended his Pacific Electric Railway (Red Cars) through the Valley to Owensmouth (now Canoga Park). The Suburban Home Company laid out plans for roads and the towns of Van Nuys, Reseda (Marian) and Canoga Park (Owensmouth). The rural areas were annexed into the city of Los Angeles in 1915.[22][23]

From about 1920 until his death, his company Whiltley Oil and Refining engaged in oil drilling in California.


Whitley died on June 3, 1931, at the Whitley Park Country Club on Ventura Boulevard near Van Nuys.[24][25] He was buried in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, today named Hollywood Forever Cemetery. On his crypt is inscribed "The Father of Hollywood".[citation needed]

He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.[9]


It is estimated that Whitley founded more than 140 towns in his lifetime.[26]

The Hollywood Citizen said of him after his death: "He is remembered by the affectionate title which his community long ago bestowed upon him, the 'Father of Hollywood.'"[9]

He was identified with the founding of Home Savings Bank, the First National Bank of Hollywood, the First National Bank of Van Nuys, and the State Banks of Owensmouth (Canoga Park), Reseda, and Corcoran.[9]

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.[27]

At the time of his death, he was practically insolvent, having lost heavily in real estate developments.[28]

Streets named after Whitley include:

  • Hobart Blvd
  • Whitley Heights, Los Angeles - a residential neighborhood, historic preservation overlay zone in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.[29][10]
  • Whitley Avenue, Los Angeles - a north/south street, begins on Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, running to Whitley Terrace in Whitley Heights.[11]
  • Whitley Terrace - an east/west street, in Whitley Heights, Hollywood.
  • Whitley Terrace Steps - goes from Milner Road to Emmet Terrace.
  • Whitley Avenue - main street in Corcoran, California.[30]


  1. ^ a b c Hunt, Rockwell Dennis (1930). California and Californians. Lewis publishing Company.
  2. ^ Stephens, E. J.; Stephens, Kim (July 17, 2017). Legends of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4396-6142-0.
  3. ^ a b "Death Calls H.J. Whitley". Los Angeles Times. June 4, 1931. image 19.
  4. ^ "Van Nuys The Wonder Town," The Van Nuys News, August 30, 1912, image 6
  5. ^ a b "Whitley's Last Rites Conducted". Los Angeles Times. June 6, 1931. image 15.
  6. ^ a b "Personals and Brief Locals," Tulare County Times, June 8, 1905, page 8, column 3
  7. ^ a b Scott, Tony Luke (2001). The stars of Hollywood Forever. T. Scott Pub. OCLC 53027487.
  8. ^ a b Palmer, Edwin Obadiah (1937). History of Hollywood. A. H. Cawston.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "'Father of Hollywood' Dies". Hollywood Daily Citizen. June 4, 1931.
  10. ^ a b Zollo, Paul (April 16, 2011). Hollywood Remembered: An Oral History of Its Golden Age. Taylor Trade Publications. ISBN 978-1-58979-614-0.
  11. ^ a b Dangcil, Thomas (2002). Hollywood, 1900-1950, in Vintage Postcards. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2073-5.
  12. ^ a b Wanamaker, Marc; Nudelman, Robert W. (2007). Early Hollywood. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-4792-3.
  13. ^ "HJ Whitley and the Original Hollywood & Highland, 'The Hollywood Hotel'". Millennium Hollywood. October 22, 2012. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  14. ^ Stephens, E. J.; Stephens, Kim (July 17, 2017). Legends of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4396-6142-0.
  15. ^ Bennett, Patricia (July 12, 1992). "The Hill, Hollywood's Mediterranean Village". Los Angeles Times. image 203.
  16. ^ "Whitley Park Lights Aglow". Hollywood Daily Citizen. December 16, 1921. image 4.
  17. ^ "Wilcox First Big Subdivider in L.A." Los Angeles Evening Express. August 5, 1922. image 24.
  18. ^ "Death Claims Hollywood Founder's Widow". Los Angeles Daily News. August 22, 1951. image 3.
  19. ^ White, Richard (March 17, 2020). California Exposures: Envisioning Myth and History. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-24307-9.
  20. ^ "The Lee Side oO'L.A.; Whitley's New Dream". Los Angeles Times. September 9, 1930. image 22.
  21. ^ Mulholland, Catherine. The Owensmouth Baby - The Making of the San Fernando Valley Santa Susana Press, California, 1987; p. 18-20.
  22. ^ George L. Henderson (February 1, 2003). California and the Fictions of Capital. Temple University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-59213-198-3. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  23. ^ Judith R. Raftery (1992). Land of Fair Promise: Politics and Reform in Los Angeles Schools 1885 – 1941. Stanford University Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-8047-1930-8. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  24. ^ Los Angeles Evening Express, February 21, 1924
  25. ^ "Whitley Dead at 83". New York Times. June 5, 1931. H. J. Whitley, California real estate man known as the "Father of Hollywood ...
  26. ^ D.H, Discover Hollywood Magazine, spring 2010
  27. ^ California Historian, Volume 54, Number 4, Conference of California Historical Societies (2008)
  28. ^ "Whitley Estate Shrank Rapidly". The Van Nuys News. November 9, 1931. p. 1.
  29. ^ Molnar, Josef (January 13, 2008). "Valentino slept here". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ Semas, Michael J. (March 2006). Kings County. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-3109-0.

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