Signs are so much more than representations of businesses or organizations. One of the most famous signs in the US serves as a landmark, the Hollywood sign. Constructed some time around 1923, this sign represents the burgeoning film industry so present in this famed part of Los Angeles.

Over ninety years later, the Hollywood sign still hovers over the city, enticing actors to pursue their big break in the City of Angels. However, going through some ups and downs over the year, this sign could have deteriorated or even been removed. Where did all this begin?

The Founding of Hollywood

Although Hollywood is renowned for its excesses and extravagance, founders Harvey and Daeida Wilcox originally established this area as a community for participants in the temperance movement. Originally started as a municipality, the area officially became a part of Los Angeles in 1910.


By 1923, Hollywood quickly established itself as a central location for filmmaking, and Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler invested in a high-end real estate development called “Hollywoodland.” Chandler and other investors paid about $21,000 to create a Hollywoodland sign, which included 45-foot high letters highlighted with about 4,000 light bulbs. Today, that investment would equal about $250,000 dollars.

A Sign of Failed Dreams

Following a successful stage career in New York City, actress Peg Entwistle moved to Los Angeles in 1932 to pursue a film career. Although she appeared in one film, her studio contract was not renewed. Feeling hopeless, she climbed the “H” sign and jumped to her death. Some say her ghost haunts the sign to this day.

Deterioration of the Sign

During the Great Depression, the sign fell into a state of deterioration and was even missing its “H” for some time after it fell over. By the mid-1940s, the city of Los Angeles owned the sign, and they considered removing it. Luckily, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce recognized its significance as a landmark and restored the sign and removed the last four letters.

Hollyweed and Other Pranks

If you happened to find yourself in Hollywood on January 1, 1976, you probably noticed that the sign said, “Hollyweed.” In celebration of the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana, Cal State student and mischief maker Danny Finegood altered the sign using fabric. In fact, Finegood altered the appearance of the sign several times to “Hollywood” on Easter, and “Ollywood” and “Oil War” in an act of political protest.

Hugh Hefner Comes to the Rescue

Recently, Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner passed away from natural causes at his famed Los Angeles estate. Famous for his lavish lifestyle and his inclination for young blonde bombshells, Hefner played a key role in saving the Hollywood sign twice.

Hefner’s Lavish Letter Auction

By 1978, the city neglected the sign for years, and the Chamber of Commerce required about a quarter million dollars to restore the sign to its former glory. Hefner stepped in and threw a lavish party where he auctioned off the letters for $27,000 a pop.

Actor Gene Autry and musician Alice Cooper were a few of the sign patrons, and Hefner successfully raised all the money. Once the city received the money, they removed the sign for about three months and constructed a beautiful replacement.

Developers Almost Ruined It

Believe it or not, Hollywood tycoon Howard Hughes bought the land around the sign in 1940 to build a mansion for himself and actress girlfriend Ginger Rogers. After they broke up, he decided not to build anything in the area. Unfortunately, in 2002, his estate sold the land to greasy real estate developers who wanted to build luxury homes around the sign.

By 2010, the conservationist organization, the Trust for Public Land, raised awareness of this project in an effort to thwart the developers’ project. In order to prevent the building of luxury homes, the developers demanded $12.5 million with a short deadline.

Although the trust was able to raise most of the money, they were still about one million dollars short. Once Hefner gained wind of this looming real estate development, he stepped in and immediately donated the remaining $900,000. After his hard work raising the money to restore the sign back in the seventies, he didn’t want the iconic sign jeopardized in any way, shape or form.

At Commonwealth Signs, we recognize the significance and beauty of signs such as the Hollywood sign and more. With years of expertise and experience behind us, we take on sign projects of all sizes and forms. Are you looking for a reliable, professional sign company in Louisville that is easy to work with? Contact Commonwealth Signs for personalized signs that perfectly represent your brand and your message.