The Hollywood Y was one of many popular men's clubs built in 1920s Los Angeles that encouraged social, moral and physical development through physical fitness (This group also included the Athletic Club on Sunset Boulevard.) Built in 1921 on the undeveloped Thomas Hudson property, the original much smaller Hollywood YMCA building was designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Hunt and Burns. Their proposed design called for a two-story building with a basement, various group meeting rooms, sleeping quarters, gym and plunge pool. (Southwest Builder and Contactor, February 11, 1921) Lack of funding at the time may have limited how much of their original plan was executed. The broad appeal of the group's message of positive "fitness" meant the Y soon outgrew its limited facilities.
Unable to serve its growing membership, the Hollywood YMCA raised funds by appealing to important members of the entertainment industry stressing the value of the organization as a "wholesome alternative to the young's wild and out-of-control" interest in the violent sport of boxing. Even the local clergy touted the need for the Y in their Sunday sermons saying, "Hollywood would be better off with the YMCA than s fire department." (Gregory Paul Williams. The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History, 2011) In 1927 Paul R. Williams’ firm was hired to expand and improve on the Hunt and Burns original design. The Williams' building opened in 1928.
In designing this newer and bigger facility, Williams built on his earlier success with the African American 28th Street YMCA. Though both buildings shared the same popular Spanish Colonial Revival-style, served like purposes, and had similar ceramic and terra-cotta interior decorative details, there was one major difference. While the 28th Street branch had two main entries, the Hollywood Y had only one. Williams reconsidered how and why users circulate in a building allowing him to create a more useful design. His new design allowed the building's managers more flexibility and encouraged members to participate in many different activities in one building. (Wesley Howard Henderson. Two Case Studies of African-American Architects Careers in Los Angeles, 1890-1945, 1992)
Both the 28th Street Y and the Hollywood branch were successful vehicles for furthering the philosophy of the early YMCA movement in Los Angeles: both the mind and body can be improved through physical fitness while exercising in a healthful, aesthetically pleasing environment.