Glance at an old map of the Hollywood area like the one above and two things stand out. First, the land is remarkably empty. There are few roads and even fewer structures. Second, two separate towns appear where we would expect one: Hollywood, destined for stardom, and Colegrove, destined for obscurity. What happened to Colegrove?
The town of Colegrove began as a 500-acre payment for a former U.S. senator's political influence. In the 1870s, the Hancock family needed help confirming its title to the sprawling Rancho La Brea. In return for the legal services -- and political connections -- of Cornelius Cole, a onetime friend of Abraham Lincoln's, the Hancocks deeded over to Cole a 500-acre tract in the rancho's northeastern corner. Cole subdivided the parcel, named the new settlement after his wife (born Olive Colegrove), and relocated his family to a house on the northwest corner of Santa Monica and Gower, even as he remained with his law practice in San Francisco.
When a 66-year-old Cole retired in 1888 and finally moved to Colegrove himself, Southern California was in the grips of a speculative land boom that gave rise to dozens of new real estate subdivisions in his town's vicinity: Prospect Park, Melrose, Piedmont, Cahuenga, Monte Vista, Wynetka, Morocco, and -- on the doorstep of Colegrove -- the town of Hollywood.