Eve Siebert is a second year Honors College student at Florida International University, graduating in Spring 2021. She is majoring in psychology with a focus on behavior analysis, and is interested in working with children with autism and other developmental disorders. She was born in raised in Broward County, Florida , and aims to learn more about the the history and culture of the area she is from.
Hollywood is a city in East Broward County that stretches from the coast to just past the Florida Turnpike. The economic landscape of the city ranges from great wealth to great poverty. In general, most of the wealthiest neighborhoods are located closer to the beach, or near the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Some of the homes and condos in these areas can sell for several millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the rougher parts of town tend to be closer to major highways.
In general, South Florida is a diverse region. Hollywood is no different. The racial breakdown is 43% White, 35% Hispanic, 17% Black, 2% Asian, and 2% two or more races. 35% of the population was born outside of the country (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hollywood city, Florida). The population is 49.8% female (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hollywood city, Florida).
The median household income for Hollywood is $51,917 (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hollywood city, Florida), however it is important to keep in mind that there is a huge gap between the highest and lowest incomes. About 13% of the population is below the poverty line (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hollywood city, Florida).
Florida tends to have a reputation for having an older population. That doesn’t seem to be true for Hollywood. About 16.5% of the population is over 65 years of age, compared to the national average of 16% (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hollywood city, Florida).
Statistics and data can give you an idea of what a population looks like overall. But if you want to get a better picture of what a city is like, it’s important to get a closer picture at its citizens. For this project, I’ve decided to interview someone who was born and raised in Hollywood, and has seen it throughout its many changes: my dad, Denny Siebert.
One of the first things I wanted to ask him was simply to describe the culture of Hollywood. He said:
“Beach bums. Sun-chasers. Tropical hippies. And rock ‘n roll.”
I couldn’t argue with that. A concise yet astute description of the general atmosphere in this city. I asked him then how that has changed over the years.
“There’s still some of that, but probably less so. I guess the hippies are probably getting old now. You can’t find a single rock ‘n roll club anywhere in Hollywood anymore.”
I followed up by asking what else has changed about the culture and the people in Hollywood.
“It’s not a close knit community anymore. People aren’t from around here- when you talk to someone who lives in Hollywood they’re always surprised when you say you’re actually from Hollywood. It’s a lot of people coming in and a lot going out, most are just passing through.”
This was an interesting point to me, because in my research (as you’ll soon see) there has been a lot of development and incoming tourism in the past few years. He confirmed to me that the locals can feel that shift. I asked him what some of the biggest changes in development have been in Hollywood.
“Oh well the beach, for sure.” He said without hesitation. “It’s full of tourists now, not as many locals. The West has also been developed a lot, it used to be all cow pastures past University Drive. We also lost the Sportatorium.”
What was the Sportatorium?
“The Hollywood Sportatorium, it was a concert venue. Everyone played there, Elvis played there. We called it the Sport Hole because it was falling apart. Concerts would get rained out, and it was an indoor venue!”
What are some other things you miss from old Hollywood?
“The music, the beach, and the community of locals. Thats what I miss.”
My dad has seen Hollywood go from half cow pastures, half beach town, to a huge tourist destination in South Florida. Even in my life I’ve seen some huge changes. But we both agree that despite these major changes, it still has some of the charm of old Hollywood. It’s still just a town of beach bums and sun-chasers, after all.
It was 1920 when Joseph Wesley Young arrived in South Florida, and started drawing up his plans to turn what was then undeveloped pine forests and marshland into Hollywood. He envisioned Hollywood as “a city for everyone – from the opulent at the top of the industrial and social ladder to the most humble of working people.” (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
Hollywood was then incorporated in 1925, but it was far from smooth sailing from there. In 1926 a devastating hurricane hit, killing 37 people and destroying millions of dollars worth of property. Thousands of residents abandoned Hollywood and returned to their former cities up North. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
After the hurricane, Hollywood was left bankrupt and in ruins. Construction had, in essence, completely stopped, and Joseph Young himself had gone broke. Fortunately, not all hope was lost. In 1928, Young decided to build a seaport that would eventually become Port Everglades. This brought in tourism and visitors, and the city was able to end the decade with a whopping 4,500 citizens. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
Joseph Young died at age 51 in 1934. The city commission renamed then Harding Circle to Joseph W. Young Circle, and declared August 4th (Young’s birthday) as Founder’s Day. (Mickelson The Story of Founder’s Day)
In the 1940s Hollywood became the location for several military sites during WWII. The Historical Hollywood Beach Hotel was converted to a Naval Air Gunner’s School temporarily. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
When the war ended in 1945, the growth of the city exploded. The Hollywood Beach Hotel reopened and built what was then the largest pool and cabana club in the United States. Despite two hurricanes in 1947, the population reached over 14,000 by 1950. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
The city continued this growth through the 1950s, and during this time Hollywood Memorial Hospital (where yours truly was born) was built. The city expanded west, and tourism grew. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
During the 1960s, Hollywood saw a huge influx of residents. The city commission had to create a special board to manage the residential development and accommodate the growing population. By the end of the decade, the city had reached over 100,000 residents. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website)
One of the most unique features of Hollywood, is the Seminole Reservation. Though it is politically independent, it is located within Hollywood city limits. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website) The Seminole history is thus separate from the city’s history, although the two are intertwined. Casinos were established on the reservation in 1988, leading to increased tourism. (A Timeline for Survival: 500 Years of Seminole History)
Since then, the population growth of Hollywood has slowed down to a steadier rate, and there is now 140,000 residents. This unique city has built much of its foundation on its beaches and tourism. The landscape continues to develop and change, but holds on to its old-school charm.
Perhaps the most famous attraction in Hollywood is the beach, with its shop and restaurant lined, pedestrian friendly street. Most people refer to this as the Boardwalk, although technically it is called the Broadwalk. This is possibly the most popular destination in Hollywood for tourists and locals alike. The Boardwalk boasts a huge variety of activities for its visitors. With hundreds of restaurants, shops, bars, and more, you can easily spend a whole day on the Boardwalk without even setting foot on the sand.
While somewhat controversial to some locals, the newly built Margaritaville Resort located on Hollywood Beach has definitely become a defining part of the Hollywood landscape. This gigantic hotel has completely changed the culture of the Boardwalk. It brought with it lots of beneficial tourism money, but also put strain on some of the local businesses.
Despite these changes, Hollywood Beach hasn’t lost its charm. Right across from Margaritaville is the Hollywood Beach Theatre (top left in collage), known to locals as the Bandshell. It is a large stage directly on the beach that faces in towards the Boardwalk, and it has been there for years. It’s another landmark that is well known to locals, and has a rich history.
My personal favorite activity on the Boardwalk has always been the bike rentals. You can rent anything from regular bikes, to huge 6 person bikes with a canopy cover, to low-ground “banana bikes” that resemble a cross between a hammock and a tricycle. The best place to rent bikes on Hollywood Beach is The Bike Shack (scroll down to the “Businesses” section for more details).
The beach and the Boardwalk are probably the most defining features of Hollywood. It’s the hangout spot, the money maker, and the heart of Hollywood. It’s the center of the culture and lifestyle.
The Hollywood Beach Resort is a landmark of this city. As mentioned in the history section, it served as a school for Naval Officers during WWII. It was also a Bible College for a short time. (History of Hollywood: Hollywood, FL – Official Website) It was remodeled after that, and in its glory days it was the shining star of Hollywood Beach and attracted celebrity and socialite visitors.
Nowadays, the resort has become more rundown. In 1987 the Oceanwalk Mall opened next to it, and failed miserably. The mall is like an empty shell. A few years back I walked through it; no stores, no people, just a few vending machines and a cleaning lady. The hotel itself is still open to the public, but it is greatly overshadowed by the many other hotels on Hollywood Beach. Many people even claim that its haunted. (Bryan Aging Hollywood landmark may be in line for long-awaited makeover)
There have been rumors for years now that it was going to be replaced or remodeled, but nothing has ever happened to it. (Bryan Aging Hollywood landmark may be in line for long-awaited makeover) It just remains, frozen in history. It’s quite sad, but also quite interesting to explore. While it definitely doesn’t live up to the excitement of the rest of the beach, it has a unique place in the landscape.
Right near Young Circle, you might notice a big building with the words “Hollywood Bread Building” written across the side of it. Abandoned now, this building was once the home of the Hollywood Bread brand.
In 1938, Eleanor Roth came up with the idea of “non-fattening” bread. Her recipe included eight vegetables, no sugar and no shortening, and claimed to have 30% lower in calories than the average loaf of bread. She moved to Hollywood, California, and it was there (not Hollywood, Florida) where the name of her company came from. (Hollywood Bread Building)
In 1963, the FTC ordered Hollywood Bread to stop the false weight-loss claims. As it turns out, the only reason the bread had fewer calories was because the slices were thinner. Luckily for Eleanor, this didn’t hinder sales of Hollywood Bread. (Hollywood Bread Building)
In 1969, the Hollywood Bread Building was built in Hollywood, Florida, and headquarters were moved down here. When Eleanor passed away in 1978, though, the company slowly declined until the early 90’s, when it closed completely. (Hollywood Bread Building)
Since then, the building has remained abandoned. Homeless people have often lived in there, and there have been some pretty crazy stories to come out of there. In 2014 there was a small fire on the top floor. In 2016 a homeless man attacked two people living in the building with a two-by-four piece of wood. (Altaner HOLLYWOOD BREAD NOT LOAFING AROUND)
The building was recently purchased, and will be turned into apartment buildings. While it is sad to see a landmark building like this go, I’m glad that it is finding a new purpose.
The ArtsPark at Young Circle is a uniquely Hollywood location. Located in what is essentially a giant roundabout in Downtown Hollywood, this 10-acre park hosts visual and performing arts events. This park boasts an amphitheater with lawn seating for 2,500 guests, a pavilion where you can watch live glassblowing, an impressive playground for the youngsters, and more.
Although some of the surrounding areas can get a little rough, the Circle itself is generally fairly safe. I grew up in this area, and going to the glassblowing events at the ArtsPark is a fond childhood memory for me. Anywhere in Hollywood you are bound to see some interesting characters, but that’s part of what makes it unique.
Topeekeegee Yugnee Park, aka TY Park, is a huge park in Hollywood that’s main attraction is its waterpark and playground for kids. It also has tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic shelters, volleyball courts, paved pathways, bike rentals, kayaks, canoes, and more. The name means “gathering place” in the native Seminole language, which is very fitting for this lovely Hollywood family gathering spot.
WEST LAKE PARK IMAGE
West Lake Park is easily my personal favorite park in Hollywood for one simple reason: kayaking. This is one of the best places I have found for kayaking in Broward County. It has 3 paddling trails through mangrove preserves, each of varying distance. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, or bring your own. It also includes the Anne Kolb Nature Center, bike and walking rails, picnicking, play grounds, and ball courts as well.
In terms of public transportation, there are three main ways people get around: train, bus, and shuttle.
The tri-rail train extends throughout the entire South Florida region, and is not unique to Hollywood. The stations are a bit more spread out, so this is best for longer-distance travel.
You can also take Broward County Transit buses in Hollywood. This is probably the most commonly used form of public transportation in Hollywood. These buses have more stops and routes, so they are better for travel within Hollywood.
Possibly the most fun form of public transit in Hollywood is the Sun Shuttle. This is a free electric car service, that allows people to hop on and hop off and explore Hollywood. You can wave down drivers, wait at designated stations, or call a car on demand via the “Ride Circuit” app! The only drawback to this option is that it has a very limited range of travel- just in Downtown Hollywood and Hollywood Beach. This is a great option for people looking to hit the clubs Downtown and then take the party to the beach!
Jimbo’s Sandbar has a special place in my heart. With a waterfront location on the intracoastal and a tiki themed design, this restaurant is unforgettable and fun. Tables on the water can enjoy views of boats and yachts that constantly drive by. This is one of the best seafood restaurants in town, and definitely one of the most fun hangout spots.
One of the most famous restaurants on the Boardwalk, Nick’s Bar and Grill is another famous sports bar. This bar is known for its stone walls and open-air dining room. Fun fact: This bar was featured in the film Marley & Me.
If you couldn’t tell, Hollywood residents love their bars. Any old school Hollywood resident can tell you all about Rickey’s Bar. While it might not seem like much to the unwitting diner, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is iconic to locals. With no windows, this sports bar is looks like nothing from the outside. When you get inside, though, the atmosphere makes up for it. The staff is friendly, and the food is reasonably priced and tasty.
At night in Broward, from almost anywhere in the county, you can spot the giant laser of the Hard Rock Guitar Hotel. Although the Guitar Hotel is only a few years old, it has become one of the major defining features of Hollywood, and Broward at large.
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are owned by the Seminole Native Americans. The Hard Rock was first opened in 2004, and since then it has grown into a giant nightlife attraction. Spreading out over 100-acres, with three hotel towers, three pools, a casino, a concert venue, a comedy club, bars, restaurants, and more, this spot is like a mini Vegas. Although it technically lies just outside of the Hollywood boundaries in a Seminole reservation, it is one of the most iconic and defining features of the city.
Sea Legs III Deep Sea Fishing Charter is a family owned charter boat company that has been in Hollywood since 1969. Their slogan is “Come fish with the best, if you don’t believe us, just ask the locals”, and that is undeniably true. My dad, who was born and raised in Hollywood, recommended for me to write about this company. They offer a variety of fishing and charter boat services, and if you catch a fish with them you can even take it down the street and get it cooked at a local restaurant for you!
McArthur Milk is a company that not many people know was started in Hollywood, Florida. Way back in 1929, James Neville McArthur started the company right as the Great Depression hit. Milk prices immediately tanked, and McArthur couldn’t afford to hire any help for the twenty-cow farm he had just purchased. So he fed and milked the cows, cleaned and filled the bottles, and delivered milk on a 120-mile route all by himself.
After the Depression, the milk business grew in South Florida. South Florida used to be covered in dairy farms. Other companies have come and gone, but McArthur always remained. Now the business has been bought out, however one of the dairy farms that supplies the company is still owned by members of the McArthur family. (Mann From 1929 to 2015 and beyond, McArthur Dairy’s got milk)
One of my personal favorite small businesses in South Florida is the Bike Shack on Hollywood Beach. It is one of the several bike rental shops on the beach, but I consider it to be the best one.
The Bike Shack is centrally located on Tyler Street, a few streets down from Johnson Street where Margaritaville and the Bandshell are. They have fair prices, and a huge selection of unique bikes. My favorite bikes to rent have always been the 4- or 6-person varieties. They also have “banana bikes”, which are low to the ground and look like a small yellow hammock, or a banana. Right next to the Bike Shack is a slushy/ice cream to-go place. What more could you ask for on a hot Florida day?
All in all, Hollywood, Florida is definitely a unique place. Full of nostalgia but constantly evolving, this beach town is both commercialized and true to its roots. It’s full of both tourists and locals, natives and non-natives, people passing through and people here to stay. It has an atmosphere of both history and development, and in those conflicting ideals you find timelessness and impermanence. It is bittersweet in this way, but I can tell you one thing for sure- there’s no place I would have rather grown up!