Can you think of a more iconic American landmark (besides the Whitehouse) than the Hollywood sign? This 45 feet tall, 350 feet long cultural icon came to life in July 1923. Did you know that despite it now being a symbol for the glamorous film industry, it was originally constructed as a giant advertisement for an upscale real estate development?
Here are 9 fun facts about the Hollywood sign you might not know!
- Originally the sign read "HOLLYWOODLAND," and flashed in segments: "HOLLY," "WOOD," and "LAND."
- It was only intended to last for a year and half to advertise the segregated housing development by real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults, but as the film industry entered its "Golden Age," the sign became an internationally recognized symbol and became a permanent fixture both on the side of the mountain and in American pop culture.
- The cost to build the original sign in 1923 was $21,000 -- equivalent to nearly $300,000 today.
- Such is life, the sign has it's own dark history, too. In September 1932, a young, struggling actress, Peg Entwistle, climbed up to the top of the 'H' and jumped to her death. A hiker later found a woman's shoe and purse containing a suicide note before discovering the body down the mountain.
- By the mid 1940's the condition of the sign had deteriorated quite a bit. It was sold (along with 450 acres of surrounding land) to the City of Los Angeles who began to repair and rebuild it in 1949. This rehabilitation was not just structural - it was was a total makeover that included dropping "land" from the end.
- The original sign was larger than the modern day version. Back then the letters were 50 feet tall and help up with a complicated system of wooden scaffold, pipes, wires and poles. Today the sign stands 45 feet tall.
- It took 4,000 20-watt light bulbs to illuminate the original sign. Although it is no longer regularly lit, it has been illuminated for special events such as the 1984 Summer Olympics held in LA, and the millennium countdown on New Year's Eve 1999.
- Talk about public humiliation and good luck - Albert Kothe, the sign's official caretaker, once lost control of his vehicle while driving drunk and plummeted off a cliff above the sign, destroying the "H" in the process. (Amazingly, he survived the crash.)
- Throughout the years the sign has grown more and more important to the city of LA -- so much so that they worked with the US Department of Homeland Security to design and develop a special security system involving razor wire, infrared technology, 24 hour monitoring, motion sensors, alarms and helicopter patrols!