You don’t need an agent, a head shot, or the unlisted phone number of a Kardashian to get to Hollywood. Just take 611 north and make a right on Route 73. A few turns later, the names of the streets will have a familiar ring: Los Angeles, Pasadena, Redondo, San Diego, San Gabriel.
Hollywood, Pennsylvania, located in Abington Township near the edge of Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood, is an architectural déjà vu. Created in 1928 by developer Gustav Weber, the neighborhood duplicates the Spanish Revival bungalows of early 20th century Los Angeles. They featured pastel-colored stucco exteriors, flat, red clay tile roofs, and arched windows and doors. Many contained Moravian tile fireplaces, stairs, and sidewalks from Mercer Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. When they were completed the homes sold for $4,000 to $5,000.
Weber came up with the idea after a trip to the West Cost, but his timing couldn’t have been worse. He went bankrupt during the Great Depression of 1929 and never finished the development as originally planned. When a local developer, Sidney Robin, took over in the 1940s, he departed from the Spanish Revival bungalows, which were no longer in style, and built traditional houses.
Meanwhile, some of Weber’s ideas were abandoned early on. Palm trees that thrived in Southern California didn’t survive Northeastern winters. Flat roofs didn’t bear up under snow and rain and ultimately leaked. Tile sidewalks and stairs cracked and were replaced by concrete.
Weber’s little village of 174 picturesque bungalows continue to be highly desired today for their nod to Tinseltown, distinctive style, and affordable price. While larger homes in adjacent Jenkintown sell in the $400,000 to $800,000 range, these two bedroom, one bath, 986 square-foot homes can be had for around $250,000. Being in the Abington School District, they are considered “bargain basement” deals by area realtors. This makes them attractive to both young couples and retirees. Plus, their thick walls are warm in the winter and cool in the summer which reduces costs, especially during times of escalating fuel prices.
Bungalows first became popular in suburban neighborhoods from 1910 to 1939 as an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In Southern California where bungalows really took off, these modest, one-story houses are often referred to as Spanish or Mission bungalows.
This style was popularized by San Diego’s 1915 Panama–California Exposition which featured both Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival architectural styles. The design was in contrast to previous expositions, which had featured Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts styles. As a result, Spanish Colonial Revival became California’s indigenous, historical vernacular style, contrasting with its previous embrace of Victorian architecture. Entire towns, including Santa Barbara following its 1925 earthquake, were reconstructed in Mission style.
Between 1916 and 1923, bungalows sprang up in Hollywood to house employees of movie studios. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy supposedly shared one before they became famous. Today, a mix of actors, writers, and artists continue to live in these small, stucco homes, but they are no longer priced for wannabes. An authentic Hollywood bungalow now carries a $1M price tag.
While there are 24 cities named Hollywood in as many states, only the one located just outside of Philadelphia’s city limits replicates the distinctive architecture of the Hollywood of Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, and Rudolph Valentino, which makes it all the more worth a visit for film connoisseurs and architectural history buffs. Mystify friends in Philly by posting selfies in front of these quirky American time capsules.
Bewitched by bungalows in Hollywood, Pennsylvania. Photographs by Michael Bixler.
You featured my house. Thank you. I wish the pictures had been taken in spring or summer when the trees and flowers were blooming. I’ve spent over 35 years making my lawn and gardens look beautiful. And thank you for featuring my hometown.
I’ve lived here for 15 years and my home is highlighted in the photos! Amazing neighborhood!
I appreciated your article about Hollywood, PA. It was interesting to learn the history about this section of Abington. The original architect had a unique vision, it remains charming today. Thanks for your inxight.
Surprise, surprise, you noticed us! Hollywood.and surrounding parts of Abington, like Northeast Philly, are so unfashionable that they are invisible from Center City. For the same reason, they cannot be seen from West Mount Airy, or Fishtown, let alone the Main Line.
Interesting article to read. I actually grew up in one of those homes
808 Huntingdon Pike until we moved to Southampton when I was 10 yrs old.
I loved the article. Being a kid I had no idea where or what was Hollywood CA until my teens. It was a wonderful area to grow up in. Cedar Road Elementary School was a central place for kids from Hollywood and Fox Chase Manor to play in.
I always loved the uniqueness of the houses in Hollywood. We would go to Hollywood Drug Store where they had a counter to get ice cream.
Born and raised in Philly and I have never been to this area. Albeit I have lived in California South then North for a cumulative of 35 years. I had a house in Petaluma, California that resembled a few of the ones pictured here. After reading this wonderful article I am sorry I did not see Hollywood Pennsylvania!
I grew up in Hollywood and I really appreciated your article. The houses were unique, they were all masonry walls (made with 2 layers of terra cotta tile) with stucco on the outside. They had virtually full basements and most, if not all, homes had hot water radiant heat. They had casement windows with leaded panes and sunburst windows over the front windows. The fireplaces were well made and worked very well. For my time there, Hollywood was served by Cedar Road School. It was a nice friendly neighborhood w/ 2 local markets.
As a kid, my father would take me to Ackers Hardware just up the street. I loved seeing those bungalows.
Very interesting as I grew up in Fox Chase Manor which was only a field in the picture. As a preteen and teen I served the Evening Bulletin to the Manor but had to ride my bike through Hollywood to Rockledge to get the papers and back again every day. When I was 16 I got a job at one of the two grocery stores in Hollywood. Thanks for your time and effort to do this short piece.
I lived at 702 Roseland Ave. in the Manor. We were north of the school while Hollywood was south. Never knew it’s history. Used to walk to both grocery stores(one was Olson’s)to get food but their biz got hurt when the Huntington Valley shopping center open with Penn Fruit. Had to walk thru Hollywood to get there. The shopping center was a big thing at that time. We used to enjoy summer playground during the summer at the school. Knew a lot of people in Hollywood who played with us from the Manor.
I grew up in Mount Airy and worked in the Northeast where I bought my first home.
I passed through this neighborhood while running and errand and was fascinated by the houses and street names. So many people don’t know this neighborhood exists. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article and pictures.
I grew up in West Los Angeles and lived in one of the houses whose style inspired these. Never knew about them till now! (I would post a picture from 1972 if I knew how to do that!)
I grew up at 657 Roseland Avenue in the Manor, back when the zip code was 19111. My family and I still live in the house my grandparents built. I remember the ‘hood when Penn Fruit was there. We also had Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts and Hobbyland in the shopping center!!!
Interesting article to read. Thank you sharing, keep sharing.