Among the most memorable U.S. landmarks is the iconic Hollywood sign that sits on the steep hillside of Mount Lee in Los Angeles, part of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the decades, the sign has become an internationally recognized symbol of the glitz and glamour associated with the movie industry. It is a remnant of the early days of Hollywood’s golden era in the early to mid-20th century, and has been featured in countless films, television shows, and photographs. Visible for miles, the towering letters serve as a place marker for both L.A. and Hollywood, representing the hopes and dreams of all who have ventured there to pursue careers in show business. As the Hollywood sign passes the century mark looking better than ever, here are six fun facts about this beloved landmark.
The Hollywood Sign Started Out as a Real Estate Ad
The sign that has become a symbol for the entertainment industry actually started out as a real estate billboard. In 1923, 12 years after the first Hollywood studio opened on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler and his real estate partners spent $21,000 (about $375,000 today) to commission an electric sign to advertise their new upscale housing development in the Hollywood Hills. The sign was constructed of metal squares connected by a frame of scaffolding, pipes, telephone poles, and wires to form 13 letters that were each approximately 30 feet wide by 43 feet tall, spelling out “Hollywoodland.” The sign was outfitted with 4,000 20-watt bulbs spaced 8 inches apart, guaranteeing it would be the brightest “star” in the night sky as it blinked: “Holly,” “wood,” “land,” and finally, “Hollywoodland.”
There Used to Be a White Dot Under the Sign
In 1924, a large, white dot, 35 feet in diameter and ringed with lights, was added under the “Hollywoodland” sign. It was an eye-catching addition to an already famous sign, but it also served as a political statement, reflecting the “good business conditions” of Los Angeles, a status that was noted with a white dot on a grayscale map produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chandler began referring to Los Angeles as a “White Spot of America,” boasting that it was without crime, communism, and corruption. Thus, the white dot was added to the “Hollywoodland” sign, and the tagline “Keep the White Spot White” was used to promote investments in the area. The slogan had other connotations, as well, particularly in a city that was both anti-union and racially segregated at the time.