The Hollywood Bowl has one of the richest histories of any venue in the world, and as we celebrate the centennial anniversary of this iconic landmark, we wanted to take a glance back at some of the more notable moments in its history.
1910s & 1920s
In 1919, the Theatre Arts Alliance Inc., with Christine Wetherill Stevenson as President, purchased 59 acres of land for $47,500. This popular picnic spot nestled in the Cahuenga Pass would become the future site of the Hollywood Bowl.
It wouldn’t be long before the Bowl would host one of its first major events, the Women’s World Peace Concert on Armistice Day (November 11). In 1921, the LA Phil began its rich history at the Bowl.
1930s & 1940s
Los Angeles hosted the 1932 Olympic Games during which Elysia, a long ballet, was first performed and set the trend of commissioned performances and world premieres being performed at the Bowl.
1940 saw one of the all-time greats take the stage. In August of that year, Igor Stravinsky conducted a concert capped by a performance of his own work, The Firebird Suite.
1950s & 1960s
The next 20 years would see the Bowl begin to take the shape that we are familiar with today. In 1952, the Hollywood Freeway opened near the Bowl, and, in 1953, a decorative reflecting pool was installed at the front of the Bowl stage. Today, the pool circle contains seats instead of water, but the structure is still how it was from the beginning, a half arc at the front of the Bowl stage.
Angelenos would also get the privilege to watch some of music’s brightest stars and personalities grace the stage, from the illustrious Ella Fitzgerald, who would go on to perform five times at the Bowl during her lifetime, to Judy Garland, who was able to keep a Bowl crowd captivated despite an ongoing downpour.
The modern age of the LA Phil would take shape in the 60s, as well. Zubin Mehta became Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1962, a rising star at the time who you can still see guest conduct the orchestra to this day.
1970s & 1980s
Another familiar name came into the picture during this time. Architect Frank Gehry would be hired to help improve the Bowl’s acoustics. His time working hand in hand with the LA Phil had begun.
1990s & 2000s
In 1990, the Mariachi USA Festival was launched, joining the Playboy Jazz Festival as one of the wildly anticipated pre-season events at the Bowl. The Bowl continued rapid growth at this time, and, in 2000, the Hollywood Bowl shell was redesigned to resemble what you see today.
The past 12 years have been the most memorable years at the Hollywood Bowl. We saw the LA Phil celebrate our centennial anniversary only a few years before the Bowl’s Herbie Hancock was named Creative Chair for Jazz, and so many other moments happened, but they are all overshadowed. The Hollywood Bowl, for the first time in history, was forced to miss a year due to the global pandemic.
As an organization, we found ways to continue sharing our music with all of you, and we made sure to do it in a way so that it was accessible for all. Even after we returned to celebrate the triumphant return of live music at the Hollywood Bowl, we were, and still are, committed to the programs that came out of the pandemic; we are doubling down on making music accessible for all.
The last 100 years at the Hollywood Bowl have been filled with events that will forever be part of Bowl history as well as events that help shape the future for the Bowl and the LA Phil. What will the next century have in store?