From an Ad to an Icon: The History of the Hollywood Sign

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You’ve probably seen hundreds of different signs in your lifetime, but no sign is quite as memorable as the Hollywood Sign. Can you imagine Hollywood without its iconic sign?
You may be surprised to learn that the Hollywood Sign started out as an advertisement for a real estate development. Let’s explore how a sign intended as an advertisement became a landmark attracting tourists from around the globe.

Beginnings in Hollywoodland

The Hollywood Sign was not erected merely to proclaim the name of the city. It was first envisioned by publisher Harry Chandler as an ad for his real estate development, Hollywoodland.
Installing the electric Hollywoodland sign was quite a project. It fact, Chandler hired 200 men for the job. A 1923 newspaper reports workers cutting seven miles of road and moving 300,000 cubic yards of dirt to clear a path to Mt. Lee, where they placed the sign. Amazingly, each letter was 30 feet wide and 43 feet tall. A total of 4,000 electric bulbs gleamed from the impressive Hollywoodland sign.

A Hollywood Symbol

The city of Hollywood first became associated with film in the early 1900s. It started with just a few film projects. When word spread that Hollywood had an ideal shooting climate and landscape, film studios flocked to the area. Don Lee (the namesake of Mt. Lee) opened a broadcast studio right behind the Hollywood Sign.
The dramatic Hollywood Sign beckoned star-struck actors and filmmakers from around the country. But soon enough, the sign also became a tragic symbol. After a nasty divorce, actress Peg Entwistle moved to Hollywood with dreams of stardom. When she didn’t find the career opportunities she’d hoped for, Peg hiked up to the Hollywood Sign and jumped to her death from the top of the “H.” Peg’s death at the sign came to represent the lost dreams of so many Hollywood hopefuls.

Decay and Restoration

During the Great Depression, the Hollywoodland real estate development floundered, leaving the sign in the city’s possession. The poor sign was in desperate need of repair—the “H” had even fallen over. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed the letters that spelled “LAND.” They righted the “H” and repaired the rest of the sign.
As the years went on, Hollywood’s booming industry continued to decline. The sign became an official landmark in 1973, but it was again in need of repair.
Fortunately, celebrities came together to save the sign. Hugh Hefner held a successful fundraiser to support its refurbishment. In 1978, the old sign was removed and replaced with a concrete, steel, and enamel sign.

Modern Updates

In more recent years, the Hollywood Sign has received several updates. In 2000, Panasonic outfitted the sign with a surveillance system. In 2010, Hugh Hefner donated money to preserve the land around the sign. In 2013, workers gave the sign its best paint job yet with long-lasting acrylic latex paint.
The sign has been the centerpiece of several events as well. To ring in the New Year in 2000, spectators enjoyed lights and special effects around the sign. And in 2013, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce held a 90th birthday party for the sign.
The Hollywood Sign continues to delight thousands of photo-happy tourists.
When Harry Chandler first set up his “Hollywoodland” ad sign in 1923, no one could have predicted the impact the sign would have.
Your business’s sign may not have the same notoriety as the Hollywood Sign. But a beautiful, memorable sign can still inspire and captivate countless potential customers. Talk to a representative from Best Neon Sign to find a sign that fits your business.
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