Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling young movie town at the center of its golden age…
…stand two silent sentinels guarding the way to the homes among the hills.
The original Hollywood sign was built in 1923 as an advertisement for a new real estate venture, the Hollywoodland housing development. Formerly reading “Hollywoodland” and lit by over 4,000 light bulbs and spotlights, it became emblematic of the filmmaking city’s Golden Age.
Far below those towering letters, situated on either side of what is today North Beachwood Drive, are two companion structures called the Two Stone Gates. Almost a century ago, these French Norman-styled towers served as the entry point into Hollywoodland, separating it from the rest of Los Angeles. Now, they stand as a piece of living history as they have been designated a historical monument by the Cultural Heritage Board of the Municipal Art Department of the City of Los Angeles.
But what do these edifices erected by Italian immigrant masons have to do with Walt Disney World?
A stroll down Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes guests on walk through time as they pass by Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, Mission Revivial, and Spanish Colonial Revival styled merchandise and dining locations – all of which stand at a distance but remain in the shadow of the imposing Hollywood Tower Hotel. It is almost as if the inhabited structures become more sparse and the landscape more prominent as guests approach. This is only emphasized by the presence of a two-part stone structure that serves as the entrance to the hotel grounds. These seemingly abandoned guardhouses serve as the first clue that perhaps not all is well within the tower.
It is the Two Stone Gates that served as the inspiration for these buildings, and it is clear that they were erected as almost identical replications of the originals. Because of the eye-catching, weenie-quality of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, it can be easy to entirely miss these pieces of real-life architecture. This is especially true now that they no longer serve as a shelter for Fastpass kiosks. Nevertheless, it is worth making note of the stone towers and their connection to the period in Hollywood that served as the inspiration for Disney’s movie-making park.
Photos courtesy of Melanie Whitfield.
Kendall has been a member of the WDW Radio Team since 2013. Today, you can read her work on the WDW Radio Blog or hear her join Lou for a number of WDW Radio podcast episodes. Kendall’s affection for Walt Disney World began with her very first family visit in the 1990s and has continued with each magical vacation since. Follow her on Twitter @kl_foreman.