How the Town of Sherman Became the City of West Hollywood

City of West Hollywood

Santa Monica Blvd - West Hollywood

Santa Monica Blvd – West Hollywood

On Nov. 29, West Hollywood celebrates its 30th anniversary as an independent, incorporated city. Although the municipality is one of the youngest in Los Angeles County, the town from which the city sprang — originally a settlement for railroad workers — dates back to 1896.

West Hollywood owes its existence to one of Southern California’s first interurban electric railways, the Pasadena and Pacific. Assembled by Moses H. Sherman and his brother-in-law Eli P. Clark from failed and fragmentary predecessors, the Pasadena and Pacific connected the booming city of Los Angeles with the beach town of Santa Monica. Along the way, it crossed a sprawling coastal plain dotted with marshes, tar pits, and citrus groves. Today’s Santa Monica Boulevard traces the railway’s route across what was then called the Cahuenga Valley.

Cahuenga Valley near present-day West Hollywood, circa 1905

Cahuenga Valley near present-day West Hollywood, circa 1905

Early descriptions of “The Cahuenga,” situated at the base of the Hollywood Hills, praised the area’s fitness for agriculture. “One of the most attractive sections of Southern California, comparatively free from frost,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of the area in 1897. “Here a specialty is made of raising winter vegetables for shipment to the East and North. Lemons are also successfully raised here.” Originally settled by L.A.’s indigenous Tongva people, and later part of Rancho La Brea and Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, the Cahuenga Valley was sparsely settled as the turn of the twentieth century approached.

The introduction in 1896 of a water delivery system by John Pirtle’s West Los Angeles Water Company made more intensive development possible. That year, Sherman and Clark built a rail yard and power plant at roughly the midpoint between Los Angeles and Santa Monica, where today’s Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards intersect.

The article was written by KCET.