How did a quaint section of Manchester get the name "Hollywood?" And why does it still carry the name, even though most
people have no idea where the name came from? Were there glamour girls? Leading men? Holly bushes?
Manchester has many sections with interesting names, for example, Rockledge and Green Manor, but Hollywood may take the cake for romantic names. And when we walk along its curving streets, laid out in the 1920s in a pleasing pattern, we note the harmony of design bounded by Westminster, Cromwell, and Lancaster Roads.
It was Edward James HOLL (1874-1967) who lent his name to HOLLywood.
E.J. Holl was a remarkable man in Manchester's history. He moved here from his native England in 1903 and became a land tycoon and developer, with a thriving business in real estate, investments, insurance, and mortgages.
He sold thousands of house lots in Manchester, East Hartford, and Hartford, and added several hundred streets to the map of Manchester.
But he must have had a special fondness for Hollywood, the housing development off Porter Street near the East Cemetery. The streets call to mind English themes, and many of the houses are in the Tudor style, or reminiscent of English cottages.
In 1925 when he platted the area, that is, laid it out in streets and house-lots, he called it Hollywood. People who
bought the house-lots could choose a house-style from pattern books, and choose their own builders. In the days before
zoning and subdivision regulations, homeowners were assured they would live in a refined area, without factories, stores,
and farming nearby. Advertisements of the period expressed this as "reasonable restrictions for your protection," for
people moving up in the world, who didn't want to have tenements and chicken coops next door. The restrictions specified
ample-sized lots, and prohibited houses of less than a particular size.
One of E.J.Holl's slogans was "He cuts the Earth to suit your taste," and he did cut up many housing developments, including Homestead Park, off West Middle Turnpike, and Pinehurst, between Main Street and Middle Turnpike, with the evocative street names Oxford and Cambridge.
Other developments were Forest Heights, Fairview, Clairmont, Greenhurst, Northland Terrace, Greenacres, and Bluefields.
E.J.'s obituary in the Manchester Herald describes his colorful life:
"One of 11 children, Mr. Holl was born January 30, 1874, on a farm in Dudley, Worcestershire, England…. He was educated in Dudley and studied medicine in his youth. The urge to see the world took hold of him and he gave up his studies to embark on a voyage around the world, which lasted for four years. He was in South Africa during the Boer War, visited Tasmania, spent two years in Australia, and reached the United States via the West Coast.
He came to Manchester in 1900 to visit a sister, and returned here to stay in 1903….He lived at his Bolton Home with his niece, Miss Millicent Jones. He made frequent visits to England and brought back many choice antiques for his home... Twice he served as President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce…and as a town court judge and police commissioner.
"At the age of 93…he was still engaged in his real estate, investment and insurance ventures."
A Herald editorial spoke of Holl as "a courteous, reasonable man, who liked the getting together of good fellows in mellow companionship, who appreciated the flowers grown for him, who named his streets after his friends, who remained unbelievably tall and erect and keen and interested far beyond the biblical allotment of years."
In the 1923, Who's Who in Manchester, Holl is described as "one of the most outstanding local examples of the wonderful opportunities offered in this land to men [and yes, all the Who's were men] who are willing to concentrate in their efforts for success… Edward J. Holl, Manchester's foremost real estate man… landed in South Manchester in 1903 ‘not broke, but badly bent' as he puts it. He sought quarters in which he might set up an office so that he could open a real estate business in this town. There were no real estate agents, to speak of, here at that time. In fact Manchester had not reached that stage where those who were here could see much beyond their own little circles. However, E.J. did see out beyond the horizon and determined that a successful business career was to be built in the town."
Holl was a member of many fraternal organizations including the Modern Woodmen of America, Masons, Elks, Kiwanis, and Odd Fellows.
But getting back to the eponymous Hollywood, there were other enterprises besides the housing development with related names. There was a Hollywood Ice Cream Bar on East Center Street and a Hollywood grocery store, now the location of Grames Printing.
Beginning about 1934, there was a Shell gasoline station, now bearing the name Hollywood Service. It's a charming station, with marigolds and other flowers in the summer. Proprietor Art Kaull has owned the business since 1980, and has several vintage photos of the garage in his office.
On a walking tour of the area in 2004, the Historical Society's executive director, Mary Dunne, encountered homeowners who described the original keys to the houses, which were on key-chains emblazoned with the name Hollywood.
Mary said of Holl's delineation of the streets, "He took his cues from the natural topography of Porter Street, but then used it to his advantage to create nice sight lines for the residences."
Mary said that in developments like Hollywood, "The homes were not usually architect-designed, and might have been
built by a number of different builders, and sometimes the homeowner himself. Publications containing patterns ... served
as reference works for building contractors, supply dealers, architects, and homeowners. They specified construction
materials, with anticipated costs of about $3,500 to $15,000. Stock catalogs and trade journals promoted these housing
"Hollywood is in my opinion Manchester's quintessential early 20th century suburb. It embodies many of the characteristics of suburban development across the United States at that time: It depended on the automobile; it was designed with an eye for natural aesthetics; and the houses reflect the most popular architectural styles of the time."
So, although E.J. Holl died in 1967, his mark on Manchester lives on. The Historical Society salutes the charming neighborhood of Hollywood.
Susan Barlow serves on the board of directors of the Manchester Historical Society, and produces a local-history television program, broadcast on Cox cable's channel 15 at 8 p.m. on Saturdays.