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Symbol of Stardom: Tracing the History of the Hollywood Sign

Perched atop the Hollywood Hills, the iconic Hollywood sign stands as a beacon of glamor, dreams, and the silver screen. Its towering letters have become synonymous with the entertainment industry and the allure of Hollywood. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history behind this legendary landmark and explore the profound impact it has had on shaping the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.

The story of the Hollywood sign begins in 1923 when it was first erected as a real estate advertisement for the Hollywoodland housing development. Designed to be a temporary structure, the sign spanned an impressive 50 feet in height and 450 feet in width. It featured the word "Hollywoodland," adorned with bright electric lights that captured the attention of passersby and potential homebuyers. Little did anyone know at the time that this temporary marketing ploy would go on to become an enduring symbol of an entire industry.

As time went by, the Hollywood sign underwent a symbolic transformation. In 1949, the "land" portion of the sign was removed, leaving behind the now-famous "Hollywood" sign we know today. This change marked a significant shift, transforming the sign from a neighborhood advertisement into a cultural icon representing the aspirations and dreams of countless actors, musicians, and artists. It became a powerful symbol of the entertainment industry's glitz and glamor, embodying the essence of Hollywood itself.

However, the Hollywood sign faced numerous challenges over the years. The weathering effects and acts of vandalism threatened its existence. In the 1970s, a successful restoration campaign spearheaded by prominent figures such as Hugh Hefner and Alice Cooper emerged to preserve this iconic landmark. Their efforts ensured that the sign remained a cherished symbol of Hollywood's history and allure. Subsequent restoration projects continued to uphold the sign's grandeur, reinforcing its status as a cultural touchstone in the heart of Los Angeles.

The Hollywood sign's significance extends far beyond its visual presence. It has served as a backdrop for countless films, television shows, and photographs, symbolizing the magic and allure of the entertainment industry. The sign's imposing letters overlooking the city have become an indelible part of the cinematic landscape. For tourists, it is a must-visit destination, offering breathtaking views of the sprawling cityscape and providing a tangible connection to the Hollywood legend. Standing before the sign, one can almost feel the echoes of the past, the dreams that have been realized, and the ones still waiting to come true.

In conclusion, the journey of the Hollywood sign from a real estate advertisement to a global icon parallels the transformation of the entertainment industry itself. It encapsulates the dreams, ambitions, and allure of Hollywood, captivating generations of artists, enthusiasts, and dreamers. As it continues to stand tall atop the Hollywood Hills, the sign serves as a constant reminder of the cinematic history and artistic legacy that define the city of dreams. It is a symbol of stardom that not only represents the past but also inspires the future, perpetuating the spirit of Hollywood for generations to come.


Who knew 100 years ago that a sign for a real estate development would become one of the lasting symbols of Los Angeles and the film industry at large?

You guys know how many times I've posted the sign before (including some of these pics here) - and how often I do the hike. I truly find it to be a wonderful symbol for the city. Have you done the hike? And (off the record) - have you ever touched the sign?

Pic 1: The sign in its early years (haven't found an exact year on this one but judging by the sign's condition and the rural nature of the Valley in the background - certainly 1920s). Pic from the Water & Power Archives.

Pic 2: Two of Mack Sennett's "Bathing Beauties" doing publicity shots - 1923. Mack actually owned the land above the sign and is the reason the top of Cahuenga Peak was flattened (he wanted to build a grand estate).

Unfortunately the Great Depression wiped out his funds and he eventually sold the 18-acre parcel. Photo from the LAPL.

Pic 3: Blondie being tourists back in 1977. Photo by Richard Creamer.

Pic 4: A closeup of the sign in 1991. Photo by Dan


Pic 5: The Hollywoodland Sign looking worse for wear shortly before its 1949 revamp. The "LAND" was never replaced as part of the deal with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (who funded the replacement sign) because they wanted the sign to represent the community at large versus just the Hollywoodland development up in Beachwood Canyon. I've definitely posted this pic before because and I love it so much (particularly the pool!!!) Pic from the Huntington Archives.

Pic 6: Jackie Chan on the sign in 1996. Photo by Julian Wasser.

Pic 7: The dedication of the sign back in 1923. Photo from the Hollywood Sign Trust.

Pic 8: Actress Pamela Searle with the sign in the distance - 1959. Photo by Earl Leaf.

Pic 9: The sign just prior to its 1978 restoration. Photo from the Hollywood Sign Trust.

Pic 10: The sign with a fair amount of graffiti back in

1984. Photo from the Claremont Archives.


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