The Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California has become more than sign.  The sign is a landmark in the Hollywood Hills and has become a symbol for all that is great about living in California.  Spelled out in 45-foot-tall letters the sign is more than 350 feet long.  When it was originally created in 1923 it spelled out Hollywoodland and was an advertisement for a local real estate development.

While the sign was not originally designed to be a long-standing monument to California living and fell into disrepair several times, it is now a landmark known around the world and is protected by The Trust For Public Land.  Because of it’s location, size, and visibility, the sign has several times over the years since its construction been the site of vandalism.  It was once in 1976 altered to read “Hollyweed”, and the stunt was repeated using fabric on New Year’s Eve 2016.

The view from behind the Hollywood Sign
The view of Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood Sign 

In 1978 the sign was badly in need of restoration and since it was designed to stand for roughly 18 months it needed to be completely reconstructed.  Lead largely by the campaign of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, $249,999,999.93 was raised by just nine donors that each gave $27,777.77.  The new letters were constructed of steel, supported by steel columns anchored onto concrete foundations.  The work was finished just in time for the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of Hollywood as a city.  In 2005 the letters were stripped down the metal and repainted with a new coat of white paint.  The 2005 refurbishment was donated by Bay Cal Commercial Painting.

Hollywood Sign Facts

  • The Hollywood sign was built to advertise a housing development called Hollywoodland.  The last four letters were removed in 1949.
  • The sign used to be illuminated with 4,000 8 watt light bulbs.
  • The construction cost of the sign was around $21,000, which is more than a quarter of a million dollars today.
  • Designed as a temporary structure, the sign was originally only to be in place while lots were being sold and it was thought it would take 18 months.
  • After the stock market crash of 1929, illumination of the sign was stopped and the caretaker of the sign removed the copper wiring and sold it as scrap metal.
  • In 1944 the city of Los Angeles purchased 455 acres from the Hollywoodland developers including the spot where the famous sign sits.
  • In 1973 the sign was deteriorated so the city painted it and declared it “L.A. Cultural and Historical Monument #111”
  • In 1978 the sign needed replacement so a fundraiser held by Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. Each new letter was ‘auctioned’ at $28,000 per letter.  Here’s the list of the auction winners:
    • H- Terrence Donnelly (publisher)
    • O- Alice Cooper (musician)
    • L- Les Kelley (businessman)
    • L- Gene Autrey (singer and actor)
    • Y- Hugh Hefner (publisher)
    • W- Andy Williams (singer)
    • O-Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
    • O- Warner Bros. Studios
    • D-Thomas Pooley
  • The Hollywood Sign Trust was created in 1992 for the purpose of maintaining and promoting the Hollywood sign.
  • The most recent renovation included a new paint and webcams that allow Internet visitors to see the sign 24 hours a day.
  • The Hollywood sign is only 20 years younger than Hollywood itself.  Hollywood was incorporated as a municipality in 1903.
  • Sherwin-Williams repainted the sign in 2013 using 255 gallons of “high reflective white” latex paint and 105 gallons of primer.