The Laurel Canyon Diaries: The Wizards of Laurel Canyon

Well, I just got into town about an hour ago
Took a look around, see which way the wind blow
Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows?
Are you a lucky little lady in the city of light?
Or just another lost angel?
City of night
                –  The Doors

The Tongva natives were the original inhabitants of Laurel Canyon, but these ancient settlers of California would all but vanish during the New World invasion. Blood would be spilled without end during war after war for the right to own California. The United States would finally win this battle in 1848, defeating Mexico in an unpopular and controversial battle. In 1850 the city of Los Angeles would be incorporated, and a sprawling new spin on the metropolis would begin to take root. The old landowners were rounded up and one out of ten either lost his land or was reduced to bankruptcy. The more fortunate Spanish or Native rancheros were absorbed into other communities, depending on their wealth or color.

A new wave of extermination was begun by American ranchers and miners intent on ridding California of the last of its native population. The US government actually reimbursed bounty hunters (mostly out of work Civil War veterans) for the scalps of murdered Native Americans. One band was hunted down and murdered in Franklin Canyon. During this time, the entire Los Angeles area fell into anarchy as unsuccessful gold hunters, fugitives, disposed Native Americans, ex-soldiers, aspiring farmers, ranchers and speculators, and even German Jewish merchants flooded the area. A severe drought in 1865 put the last of the Spanish rancho owners out of business. Preying on this hapless population were bandits and outlaws who held out in mountain hide-a-ways.

Laurel Canyon’s first famous resident was the bandit Tiburcio Vasques, a romantic hero of Native and Mexican resistance. Vasques eluded authorities by hiding out within the vast canyon lands later dubbed the Hollywood Hills. Other Mexican residents resisted the new Anglo powers by resorting to social banditry against the Gringos. In 1856, Juan Flores threatened the southland with a full-scale Mexican revolt. He was hanged in Los Angeles in front of 3,000 spectators. Tiburcio Vasques, a legend in his own time among the Mexican population for his daring feats against the Anglos, was captured and hanged on La Cienega Boulevard…things eventually calmed down, and the original Spanish ranchos were subdivided in the 1880's; and, in 1886, the town of Hollywood was established by H.H. Wilcox. (His wife gave the town its name.) This began the irreversible shift from agriculture to residences to business. Legend has it that H.H. (Harvey) and Ida moved from Topeka, Kansas in 1884, and strolled into Los Angeles on a baggage car carried by two of their finest thoroughbreds. In Los Angeles Harvey formed a real estate company with an associate and began buying up, planning and paving the streets, and selling welcoming lots to the influx of wealthy voyagers seeking the warm California sun. From H.H. Wilcox’s Wikipedia page we learn that: Harvey and Ida had one child, a son named Harry, who died in 1886 at the age of 18 months. Family tradition says that to console themselves over the death of their baby, Harvey and Ida would take buggy rides to the beautiful canyons west of Los Angeles. Harvey purchased one of their favorite areas for $150 per acre, in an agricultural area of fig and apricot orchards. Harvey tried his hand at raising fruit, but failed and decided to subdivide the land, selling lots for $1,000 each.

His wife named the land “Hollywood” after her friends’ summer home in Ohio, and the name Hollywood first appears on the Wilcox's map of the subdivided lots, filed in Los Angeles on February 1, 1887. Another theory links the naming of Hollywood to the ancient ‘Toyon Holly’ found in ample strains decorating the hills of southern California. There is even a man who claims to be the father of Hollywood himself. H.J. Whitley is said to have coined the phrase while on a honeymoon with his wife. His wife Gigi’s memoirs supposedly verify this, but good luck finding a copy. One thing we do know is that H.J. did have a huge impact on the future of Hollywood; he basically owned all the land it was built upon. Whitley is a conspiracy lovers' wet dream; not only was he a successful real estate tycoon – He also owned his own banks! 

Whitley was known to socialize with the richest and most powerful people in the world, from presidents to royals. With his monopolistic vision Hollywood quickly became a prosperous community. Prospect Avenue, which would later be called Hollywood Boulevard, was lined with large Queen Anne, Victorian, and Mission Revival houses. Hollywood quickly became a prosperous community, sporting a post office, a newspaper, a hotel and two markets by the turn of the century. Hollywood incorporated in 1903 and celebrated with a parade and automobile race. Several thousand people gathered for the festivities, “Most of them leading citizens from this, and adjoining cities, who had come on personal invitation – 800 being taken out on special cars on the trolley line – gathered in the hot sun and listened for hours to speeches on good roads by “the wizard of Hollywood” H.J. Whitley…” and other various members of the early Hollywood elite. This quote from a newspaper published in 1903 is the first reference of an occult or magical term in the history of Hollywood. By referring Whitley as the ‘wizard’ of Hollywood we get our first clues to understanding the ongoing spell of Hollywood’s enchantment.

A history that has its roots not in corny mementos to a friends summer home or from lovers lips during a honeymoon, but in ancient sorcery and witchcraft. A practice that rich white men like H.J. Whitney and associates have loved dabbling in since the beginning of time. Prolific occult historian Jordan Maxwell teaches us the real meaning behind Hollywood’s origins in his book The Matrix of PowerMerlin and the old magicians of Celtic England always used their magic wands, and these magic wands were always made out of holly-wood. And that's why today we still have Holly-wood, working its "magic" on us — showing us in movies how to view things, what we should think, or just offering us a big box office diversion.

Laurel Canyon provided the perfect backdrop for rich businessmen intent on leaving the smog filled, claustrophobic cities of the East. The warm sun and ocean breeze was enticing, but the lack of a fresh water supply was a major problem. The desert water riddle was solved by oil baron Edward L. Doheny (the source of Daniel Day Lewis’s inspiration for his performance in There Will Be Blood) and other land speculators including H.H. Wilcox and H.J. Whitley when they teamed up with William Mulholland, a virtuoso hydraulic engineer. From the 2008 Los Angeles Times article ‘Hiking into Hollywood’s Backyard’ Diane Wedner says: Although oil was plentiful in early 20th century L.A., water was not. Responding to the demand for it, engineer William Mulholland and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began construction of the reservoirs in Franklin Canyon in 1914 to distribute water from the Owens Valley to the growing, thirsty region. Their only rival in the water racket would be another key early figure who played a role in developing the canyon, and the greater Los Angeles area. The real estate tycoon Charles Spencer Mann was a blue blood belonging to one of the oldest families in America. Educated in Chicago he moved west with dreams of building on the unsettled lands of California. Despite the depression and the horrible realty market of the time, Mann found success working at Easton, Eldridge & Co. Assigned Managerial duties this working experience taught Mann all he needed to know about the emerging Los Angeles real estate market. He promptly left the firm in 1902, and established a company of his own. 

Realizing the importance of needing water in the harsh desert climate of southern California, Mann and a few other investors created the Hollywood Water Company. This would fan the flame of inspired purchases around the hills of Hollywood. David McGowan writes: Mann and his partners began buying up land along what would become Laurel Canyon Boulevard, as well as up Lookout Mountain. A narrow road leading up to the crest of Lookout Mountain was carved out, and upon that crest was constructed a lavish 70-room inn with sweeping views of the city below and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The Lookout Inn featured a large ballroom, riding stables, tennis courts and a golf course, among other amenities. By 1913, Mann began operating what was billed as the nation’s first trackless trolley, to ferry tourists and prospective buyers from Sunset Boulevard up to what would become the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue.

Mann hired local architect Robert Byrd to build Laurel Tavern. Byrd was one of the founding fathers of architecture in Los Angeles. Curiously the homes he developed within and around Laurel Canyon have contained gruesome murders and suicides, with the most famous being the Sharon Tate house on Cielo drive. Byrd’s vision for the Laurel Tavern was extravagant and even included a bowling alley in the basement. Mann eventually sold the property to the famous movie cowboy Tom Mix, who rechristened it simply as the Log Cabin. A name that stuck thanks to Frank Zappa and the future generations who gathered there.

Xaviant Haze

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