Seeing Stars: Hollywood Museums

2100 N. Highland Blvd.,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 874-2276 or (323) 874-4005

At first glance, this simple wood-frame structure certainly doesn't look very important. Situated on a patch of green lawn right across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, the little building has yellow paint with white trim, a redwood porch and a shingled roof - at first glance, it most resembles an average California tract house - even though it was built in 1896.

But the sign above the porch reading "Lasky-DeMille Barn" should give you a clue. In fact, this unassuming building is one of the most historic structures from the Golden Age of Hollywood: the very first major movie studio in Hollywood.

In 1913, director Cecil B. DeMille rented a horse barn for $250 a month, and used it to shoot Hollywood's first full-length feature film, a Western named "The Squaw Man." DeMille was only 32 years old at the time, and his partners included Sam Goldwyn and Jesse Lasky.

Although it was DeMille's first film (he even appeared in it as an extra), "The Squaw Man" went on to become a major box-office smash - the first hit movie made in Los Angeles. Made for only $15,0000, the movie grossed over $200,000 nationwide, and led to Hollywood becoming the movie capital of the world. The little "Famous Players-Lasky Co." went on to become the giant Paramount Studios, which produced everything from "The Sheik" to "Star Trek." (See the separate page about Paramount Studios).

Back in 1913, many movie-makers headed out west to avoid the fees imposed by Thomas Edison, who owned patents on the movie-making process. DeMille had originally wanted to make his movie in Arizona, but it was raining there when he arrived. So, like countless movie-makers who were to follow in his footsteps, DeMille came to California for the dependable sunshine. He used this little barn as his first studio; his actors used the empty stalls as dressing rooms. And while DeMille was shooting the film, the barn's owner actually kept his horse and carriage inside the "studio"!

The small barn/studio was originally located at Selma & Vine - 1521 Vine Street, to be precise (

map), just one block north of Sunset - where today you will find a plaque (on the northeast corner) pointing out the historic site. The studio/barn was moved to the Paramount Studios lot in the 1920's, where it spent the next 55 years (it was even used as part of the "Bonanza" set).

Rescued from demolition in 1982, this landmark barn was finally moved to its current, permanent site across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, and it is now open to the public as the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

Step through the doors, and you'll discover that the old Lasky barn looks much larger than it appears from the outside. One can see by the raftered ceiling that it was a barn, but now the hay bales are gone, the sawdust on the floor has been replaced with carpeting and the lighting is subtle and effective.The space is dedicated to exhibits about Hollywood movies and historic Hollywood architecture.

The Museum houses the largest public display of early Hollywood photographs and memorabilia. Rare photos show significant silent film sets and casts, as well as views of Hollywood homes and the fantasy architecture that made Hollywood's boulevards unique. Charlie Chaplin's 1919 movie camera can be seen, along with 1929 movie projectors used by Buster Keaton in his home. There is a large assortment of actual props and weapons from DeMille films (spears, shields, swords, etc.) including "The Ten Commandments," "The Crusades", "Cleopatra" and "Samson and Delilah".

One corner contains Cecil B. DeMille's private office, complete with his original old desk, period telephone and typewriter. You can also see Demille's glasses, shoes, riding gloves and crop on display. Visitors can watch a 45-minute video on De Mille and his most famous movies. The Museum sells new and vintage books on Hollywood movies and architecture and other small, related items. A full-fledged gift shop is coming soon.

Alas, in September of 1996, the DeMille barn suffered through a disastrous fire, which almost gutted the old studio. The fire charred the back and roof of the building , while smoke and water damaged several pieces of historic movie memorabilia. They lost the litter from "The Ten Commandments" and the chariot from the 1926 "Ben-Hur". Fortunately, the structure itself survived, and firemen braved the flames to rescue many of the museum's other artifacts.

Fortunately, the museum has been restored in the years since then, and on July 10, 1999, the staff of "Hollywood Heritage" finally managed to re-open the Museum to the public.

The Museum is now open 5 days a week, Wednesday - Sunday, from Noon until 4:00 pm.  Group tours can be arranged by calling (323) 465-6716.

Admission is $7 for adults. Children under 12 are free. Admission is free for current Hollywood Heritage members.

There's a free parking lot next to the museum (off Odin Street & Highland.)

(Ironically, "The Squaw Man" went on to become the only movie ever to have been successfully filmed three different times by the same producer/director. Cecil B. DeMille repeated his 1913 success with a new 1918 silent version, and later, in 1931, he remade it again, this time as a talkie!)

Note: You can find the tomb of Cecil B. DeMille (and the crypt of Jesse Lasky) at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, right next door to giant Paramount Studios, the studio that the two men founded from this little barn.

 Getting there: The museum is located in a park/parking lot southeast across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, just 600 feet from the base of the Hollywood Freeway's offramp - at the southeast corner of Highland Avenue and Odin Street. / From Hollywood & Vine, go west on Hollywood Boulevard (about 3/4 of a mile) to Highland Avenue. Turn right (north) on Highland, and drive north up Highland Avenue a few short blocks (about three quarters of a mile) to the museum, which will be on your right (east) side - just before Odin Street. Once inside the lot, look for the old yellow "house." / From the Hollywood (101) Freeway north to the Highland Avenue/Hollywood Bowl exit, circle to the right (onto Odin Street), then quickly get into the left lane. The museum & parking lot are on your left as soon as you leave the exit onto Odin Street (but before you reach Highland Avenue). Look for a small sign that says "Hollywood Bowl," and turn left into the parking lot.

If you like to walk, the museum is about a 10 minute, uphill walk (on Highland) from the new Hollywood & Highland center / Academy Awards Theatre (and the subway stop on that site).

For more information, you can access the official Hollywood Heritage website at:

Click here to browse books about Cecil B. DeMille

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Copyright  1999-2024-Gary Wayne
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