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The Hollywood Heritage Museum - A Slice of Film History

Located on Highland across from the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Heritage Museum is one of the most tangible connections we have to Hollywood and the film industry's beginnings way back in the first decades of the 20th century.

What is now known as the Lasky-DeMille Barn was originally built in 1901 as stables on the property of Colonel Robert Northam. Known as Diamond Bob because of his extravagant tastes, he had made a fortune in real estate in Huntington Beach with Abel Stearns. The first plot of land he bought from Philo and Daeida Wilcox Beveridge was on the west side of Vine (where he built a magnificent estate that cost $10,000), while the second plot he bought was on the east side of Vine and below Selma (then known as Cosmo). This second property is where the stables were built. Just a couple years later, Northam sold his land to Jacob Stern.

Like Northam, Jacob Stern was in real estate and had already made a fortune. Once Stern took hold of the property, the barn was used as a garage for his large touring car (one of the first in the Hollywood area!) Just under ten years later, in 1913, the barn, and the area of Hollywood itself, would change forever with the arrival of the film industry.

In this early 1920s pic you can see the barn just at the top left of the studio buildings at bottom left.

In 1912, LL Burns and Harry Revier rented the barn from Sterns. There they established the Burns & Revier Company which was the second film studio opened in the Hollywood area. The first studio had opened just two years earlier in the old Blondeau Tavern (at Sunset & Gower). Within about a year, another group of filmmakers would rent the space and this is really where the barn's association with the film industry starts.

Cecil B. DeMille, an actor, director, and a partner in the Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company (with Jesse Lasky and Sam Goldwyn), met Burns and Revier at the Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles. From there the three men drove out to the old barn and DeMille signed a lease agreement on December 22nd, 1913. They agreed on $250 a month to rent the studio and equipment. Just a couple months later the Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company began work on what would become the first motion picture made in Hollywood - The Squaw Man.

After the success of The Squaw Man (it earned over $250,000 and established Lasky and DeMille in the burgeoning new industry), the Lasky Feature Play Company merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players to form Famous Players-Lasky in 1916. The group bought the property outright from Jacob Stern and expanded their production facilities to encompass nine acres. In 1917 they merged once more - this time with Paramount Distributing Company - to become Paramount Pictures Corporation.

The back of the barn in its original location on the SE corner of Selma & Vine. LAPL.

As its success grew, the studio began looking for more space. In 1926 they bought land from the Hollywood Cemetery as well as United Studios and Paramount Studios as we know it today was born. Of course the barn where it all started had to come with them so it was moved to the Paramount Lot in the late 1920s.

For the next 50 years the barn was a treasured landmark on the lot (and can be seen in quite a few of Paramount's Westerns). For most of its tenure at Paramount, the barn served as the gym which resulted in some classic shots of Hollywood greats working out within its storied walls.

Cecil B. DeMille in front of the old barn in 1951. Photo courtesy of Mary Mallory.

Steve McQueen working out at the Paramount gym - 1963. Photo by John Dominis.

In 1979 the barn was gifted by Paramount Studios to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's Hollywood Historic Trust. It took a couple years before a suitable location was found and during that time it was on blocks in the parking lot north of the Palace Theatre on Vine. This is where Hollywood Heritage stepped in!

The Lasky-DeMIlle Barn sitting in the parking lot north of the Palace Theatre in 1980. Photo by Roy Hankey.

Hollywood Heritage, a historic preservation organization, was formed right around the same time that the barn was languishing on Vine St. The group saw the historic structure as the perfect start to their preservation efforts and with the help of Supervisor John Anson Ford, they had the barn moved to its current location on Highland. The land where the museum still sits had actually long been planned to be the site of a museum.

Back in 1960 there was a film museum planned for the site which resulted in quite a bit of publicity because of a former marine who refused to leave his home which was to be demolished. That first museum never came to pass and the lot sat empty for over 20 years! When the barn was being restored, that ex-marine from 1960 whose house had been demolished actually came to help as he was happy that the land was finally serving its purpose.

The Hollywood Heritage Museum officially opened in 1985. From movie props, to costumes, personal files, historic film equipment, and more: it is full of artifacts related to the film industry. But even with all of the historic treasures inside, the building itself is probably the greatest treasure of the museum.


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