It ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty and the Washington monument. Not only is it a world-wide symbol of the United States. It’s also the country’s most famous sign – and visual shorthand for one of America’s most universally-consumed exports: movies, as well as the West Coast city where movie-making dreams come true.
In 2023, the Hollywood sign celebrates an entire century dominating the Los Angeles skyline. That’s almost as long as Los Angeles itself has been dominating storytelling on screen.
But the origins of Hollywood sign aren’t particularly glamorous. Did you know:
The municipality of Hollywood began as a community for members of the temperance movement opposing the consumption of alcohol.
The couple who founded the town may have named it after a red-berried shrub sometimes called California holly. The municipality was founded in 1903 and merged with Los Angeles 7 years later – one year before the first film studio located there.
The sign was originally intended to promote real estate, not as a symbol of the movie capital of the world.
In 1923, the sign was erected to promote an upscale real-estate development designed to capitalize on growing interest in and success of the film industry. The first version of the sign was lit by 4000 light bulbs.
The original sign originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND."
The Great Depression was the end of the Hollywoodland real estate development, and the sign was abandoned, becoming increasingly derelict until the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce came to the rescue in the mid-1940’s. In restoring the sign, they dropped the last four letters.
Since then, the Sign and the surrounding area has been protected and preserved from both developers and disrepair, defended by citizens and celebrities alike.
The Hollywood Sign Trust, formed to maintain the cultural and historic landmark for future generations, has ensured that the 45-foot-tall letters have been refreshed for their starring role in advance of the sign’s centenary year.
A photo taken with the Hollywood sign in the background is a must for any trip to LA. And this might be the best year to get a new selfie with the sign.
Our friends at Los Angeles Tourism have recommended a number of ways and places to get your close up with the Hollywood sign. In addition to guided coach and walking and even helicopter tours, the suggest getting a room with a view:
THE KIMPTON EVERLY HOTEL: The boutique Kimpton Everly Hotel is right in the heart of Hollywood glitz and glamour, offering views of the Sign and the Hollywood hills from the rooftop and some guest rooms.
TOMMIE HOLLYWOOD: Check in to the tommie Hollywood for panoramic city and Hollywood Sign views from its colorful rooftop pool and from Hollywood Hills view guestrooms.
THOMPSON HOLLYWOOD: The chic rooftop pool, dining experiences and event spaces at the laid-back, yet refined Thompson Hollywood offer memorable views of the Hollywood Sign.
LOEWS HOLLYWOOD: An urban oasis at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, Loews Hollywood offers Hollywood Sign views from guest rooms and meeting spaces.
DREAM HOLLYWOOD: The west coast flagship of Dream Hotels is tucked among the scenic Hollywood Hills, boasting a mid-century modern aesthetic in guest rooms and public spaces with impressive views of the Hollywood sign.
W HOLLYWOOD: On the always-lively Hollywood Boulevard, upscale hip W Hollywood offers expansive vistas of the Hollywood Sign from the rooftop pool and lounge, guest rooms and suites, and event venues.
Start Your West Coast Trip!
Images provided by Los Angeles Tourism.
Night Photo - Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust and RD Willis
Historical Photo - Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust and HollywoodPhotographs.com
Current Photo - Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust
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