The Hollywood Sign: A Global Icon
History has given us many landmarks and icons around the world. But only one can be said to have global historical, cultural and creative symbolism that reaches across time, borders and peoples… the Hollywood Sign. The Hollywood sign is a historical landmark and cultural icon that has come to symbolize courage and creativity, strength and success, fame and fortune; an enduring celebration of the American Dream.
What most people do not know, is that the iconic and global symbol that sits today in the hills above Hollywood is not the original sign. The original sign, the sign that presided over the golden age of silent films, of black and whites, that would have been touched and gazed upon by the likes of Fred Astaire, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, was replaced in 1979.
1923: The sign was created as a real-estate advertisement.
The vision of developer S.H. Woodruff and Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler,
Hollywoodland was imagined as a unique, upscale neighborhood positioned high above the glitz and glamour of the burgeoning movie-industry mecca. In 1923 the developers installed a 45 foot-high sign of white block letters anchored to telephone poles and illuminated by 4,000 light bulbs to promote the real-estate project. What wasn’t known at the time, though, was that the clever advertisement prominently displayed on the slopes of Mount Lee would go on to become one of the world’s most important and iconic symbols.
1949: Four letters on the sign were removed.
Only intended to stand for 18 months, the sign stood for almost sixty years before time, weather and the elements took their toll. Regular maintenance on the sign stopped when the Hollywoodland real-estate development succumbed to financial misfortune during the Great Depression. Ownership of the sign eventually passed to the City of Los Angeles in the mid-1940s. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed the last four letters spelling ”LAND”. The remaining letters were restored and the Hollywood sign as we know it today was born.
1979: A new sign replaces the old one.
Despite the 1949 restoration, the Hollywood sign eventually began to deteriorate beyond repair. Unable to bear the thought of this global icon disappearing forever, a concerted effort was launched in 1978 to replace the Hollywood sign with an identical, but more sturdily built design, able to withstand the decades. Hollywood notables such as Warner Bros. Studios, Alice Cooper, Hugh Hefner and others banded together to raise the funds necessary to save the sign.
The success of the fundraising campaign allowed the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to replace the original sign with a more permanent structure in 1979, preserving the legacy of the iconic symbol.
2017: The fate of the original sign.
When the new sign was erected, the original grand old lady – having surveyed the birth and growth of global film, television and musical domination – was to be scrapped. Through certain twists of fate, she escaped this ignoble end and her simple, white-painted barn tin, imbued with the magic and the mystique of sixty years of Hollywood, was quietly tucked away in storage.
Segments of the original Hollywood sign were stored, untouched and unaltered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce until they were purchased by Hank Berger, a nightclub promoter. It remained in storage for more than 25 years before being purchased by Dan Bliss in 2003.
In 2005, the remaining metal was purchased by Screen Used Inc., an entertainment firm specializing in the research, preservation and exhibition of film and television properties and artifacts. It was quietly hidden from the world… Until now!
In 2017, Hollywood 1923 acquired all of the remaining metal, with each panel accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.