It is arguably the most iconic and most recognizable sign in the world. The Hollywood sign atop Mount Lee overlooks the city of Los Angeles. Erected in 1923, it is one of the most popular sites around LA. It is so popular that people sometimes go to Griffith Park to have a better view of the sign.
The Hollywood sign is now shorter than when it was first erected. It was originally “Hollywoodland,” which promoted an upscale development. The development did not push through, but the signage was left standing even after the initial 18-month installation had ended.
Putting Name to a Place
The sign may not have been intended to promote Hollywood per se, but it has stood the test of time and become a cause and charity. It is now under the management and protection of a trust specifically formed for maintaining the sign. The surrounding area had also been bought by private individuals, who donated to Griffith Park to protect the sign. Plenty of tourists in buses and vans go up to the sign, and this has become a cause for concern for both road safety as well as protection against forest fires.
Although technically, it is no longer part of LA, it overlooks the city and is an integral part of the landscape. It has become common practice to have a background shot of the Hollywood sign whenever a movie or TV scene is located in the area. This is one of the earliest custom signs or advertisements in Los Angeles.
The sign itself is as much an image of the United States as other iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, The White House and the Capitol. When these buildings and structures are seen on screen, there is no doubt where the movie is set.
In the same manner, the Hollywood sign is an almost redundant reminder of the location. There are other historic and significant buildings in and around Los Angeles, including the Griffith Observatory, but a sign denoting the place has more weight. It is like a street sign, but much taller, and overlooking a large part of the city.
The Power of the Sign
Originally made to promote a subdivision development, the Hollywood sign stood until it was replaced in 1978. It was in a state of decay by the time it was replaced, but by then, its historical and cultural significance could not be discounted.
The cost of creating a new sign was donated by a group that included singer Andy Williams, Hugh Hefner, Italian movie producer Giovanni Mazza, Les Kelley, actor Gene Autry, Terrence Donnelly, singer Alice Cooper who donated in memory of comedian Groucho Marx, businessman Dennis Lidtke donated in the name of Matthew Williams, and Warner Bros. Records.
The Hollywood sign has had a powerful impact on the city of Los Angeles. Besides its cultural significance, it should be noted that the efforts to keep the sign on the side of Mount Lee have also made a positive effect on the environment.
Ever since the failure to develop Hollywoodland, efforts have been made to make sure that the sign stays where it is. This has caused authorities and private citizens to keep the surrounding area free from further development.