Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn)
The Hollywood Heritage Museum, also the Lasky-DeMille Barn, is dedicated to the preservation of Hollywood’s film history, especially during the silent film era. The museum is housed in the Lasky-DeMille Barn, named after two of the founders of Paramount Pictures, Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille, and it is Hollywood’s oldest surviving film production building. The barn, built around the turn of the 20th century, was adapted in 1914 for the production of The Squaw Man, directed by DeMille and the first feature film to be shot in Hollywood. For more than 50 years, the barn was situated on the Paramount lot and served as a backdrop for many western television shows and films. Hollywood Heritage, formed in 1980, acquired the Lasky-DeMille Barn in the early 1980s and opened it as a museum in 1985.
The Hollywood Heritage Museum
The Lasky-DeMille Barn in the Early 1900s
Producers Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille
Samuel Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, and Leo Carillo Marking the Dedication of the Barn as a California Historic Landmark, 1956
Historic Plaque at the Hollywood Heritage Museum
The Lasky-DeMille Barn Being Moved from Paramount Studios to Vine Street, 1979
The Lasky-DeMille Barn Before Filming on "The Squaw Man" Began, ca. 1913
Backstory and Context
The Hollywood Heritage Museum is located inside of the Lasky-DeMille Barn and celebrates the history of film in Hollywood, particularly the era of silent films. The barn was built on the corner of Selma Avenue and Vine Street around the turn of the 20th century by Colonel Robert Northam. In 1903, the property was purchased by a real estate developer named Jacob Stern, and originally, the barn held horses, buggies, and automobiles. Stern rented the barn to Harry Reviver and Louis Burns, who then turned it into a laboratory for developing film and added an outdoor stage. Around that time, Cecil B. DeMille had just arrived in Hollywood to direct a movie called The Squaw Man with his partners Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn of the Feature Play Company.
When DeMille first came to Hollywood, it was mainly farmland, but he found the climate to be perfect for year-round filmmaking. In addition, relocating to Southern California from the East Coast helped him escape the patents that Thomas Edison had on film equipment at that time. Because of the outdoor stage already built with the barn, DeMille thought this was the perfect setting for his feature film and the owners also agreed to build another stage. The Feature Play Company rented the barn for $250 a month for The Squaw Man, but they did not sign any long-term contract.
In 1916, the Feature Play Company merged with the Famous Players Film Company, becoming Famous Players-Lasky. Two years later, the group absorbed the film distribution company, Paramount. The barn was then taken from its initial location to the Paramount lot on Melrose Avenue in 1926. Because DeMille felt sentimental about the old barn, they continued to use it on film sets, but it was also repurposed as a gym and research library. In 1956, with DeMille and Lasky in attendance, the Lasky-DeMille Barn was dedicated as a California Historic Landmark with the plaque reading “Hollywood’s First Major Motion Picture Studio.”
The barn moved again in the 1970s when it was taken off the studio lot and placed in the parking lot of the Hollywood Palace Theatre near Capitol Records. After sitting dormant for three years, it was taken to its current location on Highland Avenue, directly across from the Hollywood Bowl. Paramount and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce donated the barn to the nonprofit organization, Hollywood Heritage, which aims to preserve historic structures in Hollywood, in the early 1980s. In 1985, the nonprofit opened the Hollywood Heritage Museum.
Despite a fire in 1996 that resulted in its closing for three years, the Hollywood Heritage Museum is still open for guests from all over the world to visit. In the museum, visitors may see items from Hollywood’s rich history, including home movie projectors that belonged to Buster Keaton, a recreated version of DeMille’s office, Charlie Chaplin’s costume, derby hat, and cane, and many historic photos. More than a century after it was built, the Lasky-DeMille barn stands as a reminder of the pioneering spirit of early filmmakers who came to California and built Hollywood.
About Us, Hollywood Heritage. Accessed April 24th, 2023. https://www.hollywoodheritage.org/about-us.
Margolis, Adam. Lasky-DeMille Barn, The Historical Marker Database. February 7th, 2023. Accessed April 24th, 2023. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=189633.
G., Martha. ExperienceFirst, Hollywood Heritage Museum: How Hollywood Was Born in a Barn. Accessed April 24th, 2023. https://www.exp1.com/blog/the-birth-of-hollywood/.
King, Susan. Classic Hollywood: Hollywood Heritage volunteers preserve the Industry’s earliest incarnation, Los Angeles Times. August 21st, 2015. Accessed April 25th, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/classichollywood/la-ca-mn-classic-hollywood-20150823-story.html.
Treasures of Early Hollywood Escape Major Fire Damage, Deseret News. September 23rd, 1996. Accessed April 26th, 2023. https://www.deseret.com/1996/9/23/19267472/treasures-of-early-hollywood-escape-major-fire-damage.