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13 July 2009

On this day in history: Hollywood sign dedicated, 1923

In 1923 the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler, the banker and railroad owner, General M. H. Sherman, and developer Sidney H. Woodruff formed a real estate syndicate to develop a 500-acre site in the Hollywood Hills called Hollywoodland. They hoped to attract wealthy visitors from the East Coast who wanted a winter holiday home. As part of the marketing campaign, Chandler decided to build a giant illuminated sign on the advice of another developer called H.J. Whitley, who had already used a similar sign for his Whitley Heights development.

The Crescent Sign Company received the $21,000 contract to erect thirteen letters on the southern side of Mount Lee. The company's manager, Thomas Fisk Goff, designed the sign, which originally read 'HOLLYWOODLAND'. Each letter was 50 feet (15 metres) high, and 30 feet (9 metres) wide, constructed from telegraph poles, scaffolding poles and metal sheets. These were covered with 4,000 20-watt bulbs, which lit up at night in three parts, first 'HOLLY', then 'WOOD', and finally 'LAND'.

On 13th July 1923, the official dedication ceremony for the sign took place. Originally intended to be a temporary structure, the sign soon became a landmark. Nevertheless, it fell into disrepair following the bankruptcy of the development corporation in the early 1940s. At the end of the decade a number of letters had collapsed, but a public outcry prevented the removal of the sign. The city's Chamber of Commerce repaired the sign; however, they decided to remove the last four letters, so that the sign read 'HOLLYWOOD'.

Related posts
Eiffel Tower inaugurated, 31st March 1889
Lincoln Memorial dedicated, 30th may 1922
Work finishes on Mount Rushmore sculpture, 31st October 1941


Sandy said...

No idea it was that long ago. Love you blog and it's sometimes odd bits of history.

Swing by for a visit, the welcome mats always out.

Rob Frydlewicz said...

This is the type of historic occasion I like to read about, i.e. it's off-beat, light and it addresses pop culture more than "history book" events.

Unknown said...

that was interesting, thanks for the info.

sign maker said...

The iconic hollywood sign is probably the greatest sign in the world. Nice to know a little bit about its history, cheers.

Unknown said...

Thank you all for the comments.

RF: I try to mix the off-beat events with the more serious traditionally historical ones.

Sign Letters said...

The original Hollywood sign letters were constructed at a cost of $21,000. Each sign letter was 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. They were then the largest sign letters in the world and still may be. The Sign was illuminated by 4,000 20-watt bulbs, spaced 8 inches apart. The sign fell into major disrepair by the end of the 70s and was essentially saved by Hugh Hefner, who held a fundraiser to save the sign. Through his effort and that of and other doners, the sign was completely rebuilt (a project that took three months) and unveiled in the Fall of 1978 as it proudly stands today.

Unknown said...

SL: Thanks for the extra information