Nicknamed "The Father of Hollywood," named and developed the area today known as Hollywood, California.
Hobart Johnstone (HJ) Whitley was one of the nation's most successful land developers. During the westward construction of frontier railroads from the late 1870's to the early 90's he had founded scores of towns in the Oklahoma territory, Dakotas and Texas. HJ was a good friend of Theodore Roosevelt while in the Dakota Territory and he was a member of the board of directors of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad in late 1800s. HJ was at the Oklahoma Run and traveled to Washington D.C. to persuade the U.S. Congress to allow the city of Guthrie to be the new capitol of the state of Oklahoma. He build the first brick block building in the territory and was asked to be the first Governor of Oklahoma. It is estimated that he founded over 140 towns in his lifetime.
Upon arriving in Southern California in 1880's he found himself in a promoter's paradise. By the early 1900's he had taken the town of Hollywood, which had languished unsuccessfully since the 1880's and had made it a flourishing city even before the coming of the movie-makes. He and his wife Gigi coined the name Hollywood while on their honeymoon in 1886. HJ was instrumental in motivating the movie industry to move to his new town of Hollywood.
From the moment Whitley saw the San Fernando Valley, he began discussing it with his friends in Los Angeles business community. By 1909 Whitley had pulled together a group of the most powerful men in the city. Together they purchased from wheat magnate Isaac N Van Nuys the 47,500 acre ranch comprising nearly the entire south half or theSan Fernando Valley. The price was $2,500,000 - just under $53 an acre. From this land he built the towns of Van Nuys, Reseda (Marion) and Canoga Park (Owensmouth).
Besides his land developments he was also the Vice President of Home Savings Bank, President of First National Bank, Van Nuys and Bank of Lankershim; general manager of the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, President of H J Whitley Land Company and owner of HJ Whitley Company (Jewelers). The entire account of his life can be found in the book "The Father of Hollywood" by Gaelyn Whitley Keith. (Bio by Robert Keith)
Margaret Virginia Ross Whitley
1867–1951 (m. 1886)
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