How Did Hollywood Get Its Name?
There are conflicting stories about how Hollywood was named. You may enjoy the history in this Irish tale of how Hollywood California got its name.
Did you know that Hollywood, California, was named by an Irishman?
The story begins in a village named Hollywood, in County Wicklow, Ireland.
The Wicklow Gap is a low area through the Wicklow Mountains and a few miles from the pass is Hollywood, a small village, in the middle of gorgeous green farmland.
There are some Irish theories on the question, “How did Hollywood get its name” (the village of Hollywood in Ireland, that is).
- It is because of the holly trees that grow there.
- It was made famous by a priest who passed through the area – it was originally called “Holy Wood”. The priest, Saint Kevin, walked through this gap sometime in the 6th century. He spent most of his life nearby in another village, at a monastery he founded in Glendalough – Saint Kevin of Glendalough.
I particularly like this from The Hollywood Fair (Ireland) website:
“The name Hollywood derives from the area’s association with St. Kevin. He lived here around the end of the sixth century. Having come for solitude St. Kevin found that even Hollywood wasn’t quiet enough for him. According to legend he was tormented by a woman named Kathleen and to escape her attentions he fled across the mountains, to the even greater isolation of Glendalough”
The Wiki says that Hollywood Village (Ireland) has a population of about 100 and has a community around it of about 500. It’s a quiet spot with a sense of humor – they created a replica of the famous ‘Hollywood Hills’ (California) sign on a hillside in the middle of a pasture.
Hollywood (Ireland) has had a few movie stars work there, as well, just not as many as Hollywood, California.
Most notable is the film “Michael Collins” (1995), which starred Liam Neeson as the Irish patriot and revolutionary who died in the Irish Civil War. It won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Neeson enjoyed his time there. Most of the film was shot in Dublin, not far north of Hollywood. The scene where Collins was murdered in an ambush was filmed in Hollywood village.
So How Did Hollywood Get Its Name (Hollywood, California, that is)?
A local legend holds that it was a Matthew Guirke from the village who founded and named Hollywood in California.
Matthew Guirke’s great-nephew Jim Guirke had been a postmaster and shopkeeper in Hollywood (the village). He and other history buffs in the area traced the story of Matthew-the-blacksmith to Hollywood, California.
It seems that Matthew Guirke was born in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, in 1826. Matthew was one of six children.
The Guirkes, like so many other Irish farming families at the time, would likely have struggled to make a living. The Great Famine struck in 1847, lasted several years, and was devastating to the Irish. During the famine, countless people starved; a million people died, a million more emigrated from Ireland. The population of Ireland fell between 20% and 25%.
Matthew would have been 24 about 1850 when the family left Ireland along with so many others hoping for a better life in America.
Once in America, he was able to track down an uncle in North Carolina, a blacksmith by trade, and Matthew himself learned the trade.
He eventually left the east coast and went to the California gold fields – gold was discovered there in 1841 in the Los Angeles area.
Matthew established himself in an area near Los Angeles where he built a cabin. Gold had been mined in the mountains just north of this area for over a decade by the time he got there.
Matthew never forgot his home in Ireland – his new homestead in California was named Hollywood.
From California he went to the Virginia City, Nevada – the Comstock lode was discovered in 1859. Rich ores, mines working 24-hours a day, big money flowed for many years.
When it appeared the Comstock Lode was finished, the population of Virginia City declined sharply – ten thousand miners left the area between 1864 and 1865.
Many of them headed north to Montana to newer mining districts, and it is likely Matthew was among them. He was in Helena for a while, and Matthew would have been there roughly about the same time, maybe shortly after, gold was discovered in Alder Gulch, Montana, about 90 miles from Helena.
Two new mining towns were created in Alder Gulch – they were named Virginia City (Montana) and Nevada City (Montana). Virginia City was designated as the new territorial capital of Montana in 1865. And Matthew was there for a while, possibly providing his valuable smithing skills to the miners once again.
After some time there, he headed south-west, 80 miles or so, into Bozeman, Montana, and then further south into the wilderness.
In August 1871, at a remote site near where Boiling River empties into Gardiner River, he opened McGuirk’s Medicinal Springs. Matthew was forced to close because it turned out he had filed his claim to the land 8 days after the creation of Yellowstone National Park had been approved. His land claim – including his cabin at the hot springs – was within the boundaries of the new national park.
He filed a complaint with the US government and was awarded $1,000 as compensation for the loss of his cabin and business, and the government tore down his cabin.
Decades of hard work, cold climates, and hazardous journeys in rough terrain took a toll on Matthew. He returned to California where the winters were not so harsh and unforgiving. Matthew McGuirk passed away on October 13, 1901, at 75. He is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
His home in Hollywood, Ireland is alive and well, and the pastures are as green as they ever were.
And the Hollywood he founded in California continued to grow and prosper.
Two years after his passing, Hollywood, California became a city and later became part of the city of Los Angeles.
Over the next few decades, movie and music studios moved to Hollywood. Walt Disney created a vision that attracted vacationers from around the world. Movie stars, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, and so much more.
Over the next century, Los Angeles would become the second-largest city in the United States.
The orange groves, palm trees, the beaches, the sunshine, have attracted millions of people.
An Irishman, one of the first to come, named it Hollywood.
It is a great place to visit, and there are attractions in Los Angeles that exist nowhere else on earth.
So there it is, the answer to the question of over 100 years – “How Did Hollywood Get Its Name”.
EDIT AND CORRECT THE COPY BELOW:
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Hollywood Destinations Include:
- Hollywood Walk of Fame/Chinese Theater
- The Fabulous Sunset Strip
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