The Hollywood Sign (Los Angeles, California)

The Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California has over the course of its life most definitely become more than just a sign. The famous landmark in the Hollywood Hills has become a symbol of everything that makes California the Golden State. Originally created in 1923 as an advertisement for the Hollywoodland real estate development, the sign was only intended to stand for a short time.

And while it was never intended that the 45-foot-tall letters spelling out Hollywood would become a long-standing monument to California living, it is now known around the world and is protected by The Trust For Public Land. Because of it’s location, size, and visibility, the sign has been the site of some pretty spectacular acts of vandalism throughout the years. The most notable act of vandalism was in 1976 when the O’s were altered so that the sign read “Hollyweed” The stunt was done with such flair that it 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.