This article explores the founding of the Hollywood Bowl and the multiple visions of its founding generation, tracing the cultural negotiations they engaged in between 1918 and 1926. These aims included disseminating high culture to ordinary citizens, democratizing access to music, providing spiritual uplift, unifying Hollywood’s diverse populace, and offering legitimacy to Hollywood as an emerging symbol of the U.S. film industry. By 1926, the Hollywood Bowl that emerged from a contentious planning process reflected aspects of all of the founders’ goals, but did not entirely fulfill those of any one of them. I argue that, despite their disagreements, the Bowl’s founders believed that their collective cultural enterprise had the potential to encourage a sense of cohesion and community among Hollywood’s—and more generally Los Angeles’s—inhabitants. The Hollywood Bowl was the first of many large-scale efforts to give culture permanence in Los Angeles, and its success helped redefine its urban identity by replacing negative images of the region with a growing reputation as a noteworthy cultural metropolis.

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