This Tour, first held in the early 1980s, is our club’s biennial fundraiser for neighborhood beautification and to support Shades Cahaba School, as it has since the early days of Hollywood.
In 1924, 26-year-old developer Clyde Nelson set out to fulfill his vision of a planned community of Spanish-style homes, fashionable at the time. His Hollywood Land Company paid $109,800 for land that would become “Birmingham’s Master Subdivision.” Nelson hired Harvard-trained landscape architect Rubee J. Pearse to design the 750-lot neighborhood, laying out roads, green spaces, lot lines, and house placement. The Garden Club pays to maintain most of the green spaces, now13 in number.
Nelson engaged Birmingham architect George P. Turner to design most original residences, including 60–80 Spanish homes and many of Tudor design. Committed to highest quality, Nelson sent contractors to Miami to study masonry techniques before the first foundation was dug. Lots sold for $1,800–$3,700, completed homes for $15,000–$35,000. Although Nelson eventually allowed lot buyers to build the popular Tudor style, he still insisted on strict design codes, often fighting buyers who misrepresented their plans or refused to comply.
Nelson’s promotion of Hollywood was flamboyant. When the first floor of a new house was built, he brought in orchestras and opera singers for outdoor lawn parties, inviting the general public. He lured potential homeowners to the area with every amenity he could think of: a leather-seated bus for free runs to Birmingham, the first natural gas pipeline into Shades Valley, and the Hollywood Country Club (burned 1984), offering fine dining, dancing, and a large pool and sandy beach, complete with lounge chairs and umbrellas.
By December 1926, Hollywood had enough residents (176) to petition the court to become a town. The petition was granted, and a mayor and five councilmen elected. The town had one policeman and one garbage man. In 1929, facing mounting expenses to complete the sewer system and provide other services, the town merged into the City of Homewood.
91 years later, Hollywood remains a tribute to an era and to the vision of a man and his dream. In 2002, our Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, significant as the earliest, and one of the most well-executed, planned communities in the state, as well as for the architectural style of surviving houses (237 c. 1925–1929, 141 c. 1930–1939). The Hollywood Garden Club promotes the preservation and protection of this unique historic neighborhood.
Thank you for your support of this fundraiser, which allows us to continue to maintain and preserve our “little piece of history” right here in Homewood.