The Hollywood Sign Celebrates Its 100th Birthday

Keeping a vigil over romantics’ hopes, successes and even dashed dreams, the Hollywood sign is like a parent that watches over the city from afar, without judgment.

Arguably it may be the most famous sign in the world.

The famed Hollywood sign that was erected in 1923, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

The sign was initially a billboard constructed by Los Angeles Time publisher Harry Chandler for $21,000 to promote his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development.

Local newspapers The Los Angeles Times, Holly Leaves, Los Angeles Record, Los Angeles Examiner and the Hollywood Daily Citizen write about the development, and the L.A. Times on June 10, 1923, wrote that by then, seven miles of road and been cut and 300,000 cubic yards of dirt had been moved.

The first mention of the sign was in a December article in the Holly Leaves about the Mulholland Highway that would extend “…from the western end of the (Griffith Park) road, under the electric sign of Hollywoodland, around Lake Hollywood and across the dam.”

Archives of historic photos taken as the sign was being erected, show workers carrying lights in frames or troughs. By the end of 1923, the Hollywoodland sign was erect with high-profile beacon lights.

Each of the original 13 letters was 30 feet wide and about 43 feet tall, constructed of 3×9′ metal squares rigged together by an intricate frame of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles.

According to the sign history, there was a giant white dot (35 feet in diameter, with 20-watt lights on the perimeter) constructed below the sign to catch the eye.

The sign itself featured 4,000 20-watt bulbs, spaced 8 inches apart.

At night the sign blinked first “Holly” then “wood” then “land” and then the entire Hollywoodland was lit, followed by a searchlight blast to the sky. The sequence was then repeated.

The land and sign were sold to Los Angeles in the mid-1940s, and in 1949, the Department of Parks and Recreation rebuilt the sign and removed the “land” letters.

The sign was dedicated as a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument in 1973.

The sign had come under further disrepair and in 1978 several celebrities raised funds to rebuild it. The letters were auctioned off for $27,500 a piece.

The nine donors and their letters were: H (Hugh Hefner), O (Giovanni Mazza, L (Les Kelley), L (Gene Autry), Y (Terrance Donnelly), W (Andy Williams), O (Warner Bros. Records) O (Alice Cooper) and D (Dennis Lidtkey).

The original wood support beams were replaced that year with metal and during renovation, Hollywood was without its sign for three months.

Since 1992, a nonprofit, The Hollywood Sign Trust has been in charge of maintaining and securing the sign click here.

The area around the Hollywood sign is restricted and touching or getting close to the sign is prohibited. On the Hollywood Sign website, there are three hiking trails listed that can bring people closer to the sign: Mt. Hollywood Trail, Brush Canyon Trail and the Cahuenga Peak Trail.

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One Response to The Hollywood Sign Celebrates Its 100th Birthday

  1. 'joy' says:

    Re: The Hollywood sign

    When I was 16, a friend gave me a palomino horse for my birthday. I loved that horse and cleaned stalls to keep Raider, at Sunset Stables. The barn was up at the end of Beachwood Drive, in the Hollywood Hills and I spent every minute I could with Raider.
    That year, we had some hard rain and the delicious fresh rain scent begged for a trail ride. The Hollywood sign was situated nearby on a dirt road that was riding distance from the barn and I wanted to look at the city through the ‘H’ – just for the fun of it. My buddy Raider and I cantered up to the back of the sign and to the edge of the berm behind the sign. With the knowledge all teenagers have that I was infinite and indestructible, we stepped over the little berm onto the hill.
    But… the rains had turned the dirt to mud and we were in big trouble – the hill was fighting back. It only took a minute to realize Raider couldn’t get his footing. And, all I could think of was, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die in a muddy wilderness in view of the Hollywood Freeway!
    As he struggled, trying to crawl back up the hill, literally on his knees, I came off, but grabbed his tail and the two of us clawed our way back up through the mud to the berm. As we stood, side by side, safely back on the dirt road, both of us covered in mud, Raider was shaking and I was, as well.
    I lost a chunk of my indestructibility that day… and rode often to the sign but never again over the berm.
    Cheers, Sue from

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