Paul De Longpre: French-born flower painter was the first Hollywood celebrity in the early 1900s

In Hollywood, there’s a street called De Longpre Avenue, one block south of Sunset Boulevard, between La Brea Avenue and North Gower Street, and De Longpre Park is located at De Longpre Avenue and North Cherokee Avenue.

They are named after Paul De Longpre, born on April 18, 1855, in Villeurbanne, in the suburbs of Lyon, France. He began painting at age 12, married at age 19, and became a well-known flower painter who emigrated to the U.S. in 1890. In the 1890s, he lived in New York, and after a successful exhibition of flower paintings, he and his family—his wife Josephine and their three daughters Blanche, Alice, and Pauline—moved to Los Angeles in the late 1890s.

Upon his arrival in LA, Hollywood was still a charming, tight-knit, little village. Daeida Wilcox Beveridge (1861-1914), a businesswoman, and Hobart Johnstone Whitley (1847-1931), a wealthy Canadian-American land developer, transformed this rural patch of ranch land into a refined, temperate, utopian village of large homes and lush gardens. Wilcox owned a vast property of land, bounded by Franklin Avenue on the north, Sunset Boulevard on the south, North Gower Street on the east, and Whitley Avenue on the west—until she subdivided it into blocks and cut roads through it—and she loved the idea of having a painter living in her community. In exchange for three of his paintings, she reportedly gave him three lots on Cahuenga Boulevard, north of Prospect Avenue, what would become Hollywood Boulevard from 1910.

Paul De Longpre’s property and estate were located on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard | Google Earth

In 1898, Canadian architect and sculptor Louis J.B. Bourgeois designed De Longpre’s house in Cahuenga Valley, as it was called back then, in Mission Revival style, and when it was finished in 1901, it became one of Hollywood’s most lavish mansions. It included an art gallery where he could sell his paintings of romantic still-lifes of roses and orchids, and the place was surrounded by expansive flower gardens. Later, Bourgeois married Alice De Longpre.

His estate became a popular place, and in the early 1900s, when Hollywood had reached a population of 500, had a post office, a newspaper, two markets, a single-track streetcar line along Prospect Avenue, and a hotel (The Hollywood Hotel, now the site of the Kodak Theatre), De Longpre’s mansion was included in the Balloon Route Trolley trip; when placed on a map, the route made the outline of a balloon. The Balloon Route Trolley’s first stop, also by streetcar, after leaving the South Hill Street Station in downtown Los Angeles, was his residence. It became an attraction where tourists strolled through his studio and the colorful gardens surrounding his home. They were invited to have their pictures taken, and they could buy the photos. Along with his paintings, the tours supported his family. Back then, there were many impressive mansions in rural Hollywood, but his became Hollywood’s first tourist attraction.

Postcard of the entrance to Paul de Longpre’s gardens and mansion, located on Cahuenga Boulevard, Hollywood | Film Talk Archive

The excursion line was heavily advertised and, consequently, it became well-known.

In September 1910, De Longpre was hospitalized and required surgery, from which he didn’t recover. Five months later, he was bedridden after a recurring mastoid infection had returned, and he died at his home on June 29, 1911, at age 56. De Longpre did not really get to witness the birth of the movies in his residential hometown because only by that time, the first films (shorts) were made in Hollywood; on February 2-3, 1910, D.W. Griffith’s shot “In Old California” in Hollywood. This 17-minute short became the first silent movie to be shot entirely in Hollywood; it was first screened on March 10, 1910. By October 1911, the Nestor Film Company became the first Hollywood studio at 6121 Sunset Boulevard, near Gower Street; Nestor would eventually become Universal Studios. D.W. Griffith’s “Love Among the Roses” (1910) was filmed in De Longpre’s gardens and starred then 18-year-old Mary Pickford.

“Love Among the Roses” (1910), directed by D.W. Griffith, starring Mary Pickford

After De Longpre’s death, per several sources, his family returned to France, and around 1920—although some sources indicate the mid-1920s—the house and gardens were demolished for their real estate value, and his paintings fell out of fashion.

As I said, Paul De Longpre didn’t live long enough to see the birth of the movies, with Hollywood soon as the film capital of the world, but he surely witnessed the profound impact of early photography with the golden era of illustrated postcards. It was a booming business, especially from 1890 to 1915. Postcards, including of the De Longpre mansion, became extremely popular as an early and quick way for individuals to communicate. Generally, worldwide demand for postcards increased rapidly, and they were sold in record numbers. Postcards became collector’s items; most people couldn’t afford a camera, so they started collecting postcards instead. In 1913, the United States Post Office estimated that over 900 million postcards were mailed. But millions were never mailed, and clubs were formed all over the world with the sole purpose of collecting and exchanging postcards. Technological advances in photography, printing, and mass production made this boom possible so that tons of postcards were available.

Carriage entrance to Paul de Longpre’s home at Hollywood, Cal. | Film Talk Archive

In the U.S., Private Mailing Cards were manufactured from 1898-1901. From 1901 to 1907, the undivided back postcards were in demand in the U.S., until they were replaced by divided back postcards (1907-1915)—postcards where the back of the postcards was divided, with the left side for a message, and the right for postage, name, and address of the recipient. Although postcards published by M. Rieder (from 1901 to 1915), among others, printed in Germany, were an exception; several of them had a divided back prior to 1907.

The year 1907 is often referred to as the birth of the modern postcard because that year, the postcard format was created that we still use today. Later, white border postcards (1915-1930) were introduced, followed by the linen postcards (1930-1945, with yellow, orange or green borders), and from 1945 photochrome postcards, although the Union Oil Company already launched chrome postcards in their western service stations in 1939.

However, in the United States, the golden age of postcards is commonly defined as starting around 1905; it peaked between 1907 and 1910—De Longpre’s era— and ended by World War I.

Thanks to numerous postcards, Paul De Longpre’s presence and life in Hollywood were widely documented, but other early Hollywood residents and émigrés didn’t go unnoticed either. Take, for example, British-born Arthur Letts (1862-1923), merchandiser, philanthropist, founder of the Broadway Department Store (opened in 1896 and expanded to a 144,000 square feet store in 1903), and owner of Bullock’s Department Store. His Tudor Revival Hollywood home was located on 4931 Franklin Avenue. The property was bounded by Franklin Avenue, Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz Boulevard, and Laughlin Park.

Following in the footsteps of De Longpre and his property, Letts’ gardens were also open to the public for tours, with the Pacific Electric Railway stopping at it. He hoped the gardens would remain intact after his death in May 1923, but his wife had the mansion and gardens demolished in 1927 to subdivide and develop the land. She then moved to a new residence in Holmby Hills.

Vista del Mar was another well-known seven-acre estate, owned by British-born Albert G. Bartlett (1850-1923), President of the Bartlett Music Co. The Mission Revival mansion, similar to De Longpre’s residence, was completed around 1902 and was located on 6219 Hollywood Boulevard. Demolished in 1919, the Vista del Mar site was near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue, where now The Fonda Theatre (opened in 1926), The Hollywood Pantages Theatre (opened in 1930), and the Eastown apartment building can be found—all near Hollywood and Vine.

Other prolific Hollywood pioneers were the German-born Bernheimer brothers and middle-aged Jewish bachelors, Eugene Elija (1865-1924) and Adolph Leopold Avraham (1866-1944); their 1914 mansion with impressive Japanese gardens, located on 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, was built to house their priceless collection of Asian treasures. The good news is that this property has survived: now known as Yamashiro Hollywood, it is a famous restaurant that was featured in numerous films, including “Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000) and Rob Marshall’s Oscar-winning “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005). Only a few years after the Bernheimer brothers had built their mansion, the film community took over, and Hollywood became the center of filmmaking and entertainment.

So Paul De Longpre was not the only one to put Hollywood on the map, but he played a key role, and among the true Hollywood pioneers, he was the first one of his kind.

All the images you can find here of De Longpre’s home are scans of the postcards from my own private collection/archive; on this website, you will never find any internet downloads.

In the future, more postcards will be posted of early Hollywood with the film studios and numerous iconic buildings on and near Hollywood Boulevard, and hundreds of postcards of film stars’ estates from the 1920s to the 1960s that were located in Hollywood, North Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Westwood, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Toluca Lake, Northridge, and Palm Springs.

Paul De Longpre’s name is often spelled as DeLongpre, de Longpre, and De Longpré.

Residence of Paul de Longpre at Hollywood, Cal.; Private Mailing Card, 1898-1901 | Film Talk Archive
Home of M. Paul de Longpre; undivided back postcard (1901-1907) | Film Talk Archive
Paul De Longpre’s residence, Hollywood, Cal.; undivided back postcard (1901-1907) | Film Talk Archive
Front view of the home of Paul de Longpre’s the artist, in Hollywood, Cal.; undivided back postcard (1901-1907) | Film Talk Archive
Mr. Paul de Longpre, corner in his garden, Hollywood, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Mr. Paul de Longpre, corner in his garden, Hollywood, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Paul de Longpre and daughter in his garden at Hollywood, Cal.; undivided back of postcard by M. Rieder Publ. | Film Talk Archive
Paul de Longpre, the artist, and daughter in his garden at Hollywood, Cal. | Film Talk Archive
Residence of Paul de Longpre, Hollywood, Cal.; undivided back of postcard by M. Rieder Publ. | Film Talk Archive
Paul de Longpre’s residence, Hollywood, Cal.; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Residence of Paul de Longpre, famous flower painter, Hollywood, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Residence of Paul de Longpre, famous flower painter, Hollywood, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Kiosk and residence of late Paul de Longpre, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Residence of Paul de Longpre, Hollywood, Cal.; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Paul de Longpre’s residence, Hollywood, Cal.; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Residence of late Paul de Longpre, noted flower painter, Hollywood, near Los Angeles, California; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive
Paul de Longpre residence, Los Angeles, Cal.; divided back postcard (1907-1915) | Film Talk Archive