See LA How We See LA

From live music to the edgiest art installations, we share an insider’s view of DTLA. Check here for monthly updates on exploring the world The Wayfarer way.

hollywood sign

The History of the Hollywood Sign

You’ve seen it in Blockbuster films, on your favorite shows, and even make an appearance in your Instagram feed. The famous Hollywood sign — synonymous with Los Angeles, California, and an unmistakable part of the city’s iconic skyline.

But the sign wasn’t always a part of the city. Constructed in 1923 for just $21,000, the first version of the sign was erected to advertise a new housing development in the Hollywood Hills. It read "Hollywoodland" and was built to last just 18 months, but almost a century later, it’s still around.

By 1949 the sign had fallen into disrepair, and at one point the letter "H" had even fallen over entirely! It had become such a fixture in town that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decided to take over the maintenance and ownership of the sign, changing it to "Hollywood" as a reference to the city.

But that wouldn't be the last time the sign needed to be saved. In 1978, Hugh Hefner threw a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where he and his celebrity purchased individual letters of the sign for $27,500 apiece. Alice Cooper even sponsored one of the "O’s" in honor of Groucho Marx!

Now that you’re armed with the history of the famous Hollywood sign, declared a Historical Landmark by the City’s Cultural Heritage Board in 1973, see if you can spot the four-story, 450-foot-long, and 480,000-pound sign from around town during your next trip to LA.