In this monthly column, The Real Deal takes a dive into L.A.’s storied real estate history.
May, 1919 — Grauman announces new Hollywood theater
Not quite a century ago, showman Sid Grauman announced ambitious plans to open “a string of picture theaters” throughout the country, including his first in Hollywood, which would become Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre.
The announcement, which was reported by the Los Angeles Times, came just over a year after the successful opening of his first “picture palace,” the Million Dollar Theater in Downtown Los Angeles at Third Street and Broadway.
In the newspaper’s “Spice of Life” column, motion picture editor Grace Kingsley wrote that Hollywood, not yet synonymous with the film industry, sorely needed the palatial theater.
“Hollywood has long been in need of a handsome picture house, and now the enterprising Mr. Grauman proposes to supply it,” she wrote. “Every possible convenience and comfort will be provided to patrons in the new theater, work on which will be begun within a short time.”
At the time, the theater slated for Hollywood Boulevard was expected to cost “more than $210,000 and seat 2,200 [patrons],” though by the time it opened in 1922 costs had reportedly multiplied several times over.
May, 1923 — Comedian buys land from pioneer
In 1923, silent film actor and comedian Harold Lloyd purchased a sweeping tract of wooded land in Beverly Hills from P.E. Benedict, a pioneer whose family settled land in the area in the 1860s. Lloyd paid a reported $100,000 for the property, which had not traded hands “since the original United States patent” was awarded some 60 years earlier, the L.A. Times reported.
Later known as Greenacres, the site “spread over 11 acres…at the mouth of Benedict Canyon,” though it was later said to measure closer to 15. Lloyd, who would eventually build a 44-room mansion on the land, lived among some of the era’s greatest silent film actors and producers, including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Thomas Ince.
Since then, most of the land has been subdivided and sold for millions an acre, and the principal portion of the property, including the mansion, was winnowed down to a mere five acres. These days the mansion is home to investor Ron Burkle, who bought it for $20 million in 1993.
May, 1995 — Rumors of downtown sports arena reported
This month, more than 20 years ago, rumors of a Downtown L.A. hockey and basketball arena — what would eventually become the Staples Center — were first reported by the Times. The sports complex, which has since been credited in part with jumpstarting the revitalization of downtown, was no more than a whisper at the time. News of building an arena was mentioned only briefly, deep inside an article in the sports section about the then-impending sale of the Kings hockey team to billionaire Philip F. Anschutz and local real estate developer Edward P. Roski Jr.
Quoting unnamed sources, the newspaper reported that Anschutz wanted to build the arena “near Dodger Stadium, on land near Chinatown owned by his company, Southern Pacific Railroad Corp.”
Though the precise location of the rumored arena would later change, by May of 1997 the L.A. City Council had approved development plans for the estimated $200 million sports center. In October 1999, the Staples Center, which ultimately cost closer to $375 million to build, opened its doors to fans.