Sunset Boulevard snaked its way from the historic Plaza district of downtown Los Angeles through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and down to the Pacific Coast Highway. The section that came to be known as the Sunset Strip covers less than two miles or roughly 15 blocks, but its boundary was elastic. Writing for Esquire in August 1961, Bernard Wolfe states that geographically, the Strip began at Switzer Boulevard, but institutionally it was anchored at Schwab’s drug store near Crescent Heights. The western end was considered to be Doheny Road, near the Beverly Hills city limits, where the bridle path once began in the median.
The future Strip was sparsely developed at first, consisting mainly of private residences and roadhouse-type eateries like the Nut Kettle and Hamburger Jack’s, back when the area was know as Sherman. Commercial development increased in the mid-1920s. In 1924 a mini-development called the English Village shoppes opened. In the same section, the following year architect Edwin Bergstrom designed four low-slung neo-colonial style buildings, one of which came to house a nightclub/speakeasy called La Boheme. In 1926 film star Alla Nazimova began adding bungalows and a pool to her sprawling property near Crescent Heights and opened it as the Garden of Alla Hotel. The Chateau Marmont hotel opened up in 1929.
Alla Nazimova’s Sunset Blvd. home became the Garden of Alla Hotel. The “h” came later.
Hamburger Jack’s in the 9000 block next to Westside Market (9009 Sunset) had been operating since the late 1920s before the strip was The Strip. Seen c. 1937. LAPL.
By early 1935 there was enough nightlife, shopping and business activity to warrant the name “Sunset Strip.” Los Angeles Times arts critic Philip K. Scheuer wrote in October of that year: “the county strip, which people are referring to more and more frequently, has nothing to do with rural burlesque. This is an easy way of designating a section of Sunset Boulevard which, unless signs are cockeyed, is enjoying a great boom.”
8610 Sunset, seen in newspaper photo above when new, as Cafe Trocadero c. 1936. LAPL
Built in the French style as an architect’s office and residence, the Price Building (later Norma Talmadge Building) at 9000 Sunset Blvd. was replaced by a 15-story building in 1963.
Scheuer credited talent agents Victor Orsatti and Milton Bren for sparking the Strip’s popularity when they opened a new office at 9000 Sunset, a location convenient to clients on their way home to Beverly Hills from work at the nearby studios. The opening of several nightspots in the vicinity at roughly the same time, places popular with the movie crowd like Café Trocadero (in the former La Boheme), Café Lamaze, Queen (later Villa Nova) and the Kings, also factored in.
The Sunset Strip near Sweetzer c.1951. In the lower left is the driveway leading to Castle Kalmia, 8311 Sunset, seen perched on the hill to the right. LAPL
The boom of the mid-1930s added blocks of big white, colonial-revival structures adding to an already eclectic architectural mix of Mediterranean, Normandy, Spanish-colonial, Tudor, and streamline-moderne styles (if not a combination of two or more).
8661-8671 Sunset Blvd. c. 1937
Colonial Revival retail shops in the 8600 block of Sunset Strip near Sunset Plaza, c. 1939. LAPL
French style buildings in the 8700 block c. 1939. LAPL