1923 The Hollywood Sign is built as a huge, illuminated advertisement for the upscale real estate development, Hollywoodland. The Sign costs $21,000 and includes thirteen 50-foot high letters constructed of 3′ X 9′ panels and painted white. Using mule teams and tractors, the panels are hauled up Mt. Lee and secured to frames constructed of pipes, wires, and telephone poles. Four thousand 20-watt light bulbs are mounted on the letters and spaced 8″ apart. In late 1923 the Sign is turned on and the result is dazzling. The developers expect the Sign to last about a year.
1923-1931 The Sign become somewhat of a West Coast phenomenon and a tourist attraction. The Sign endures and becomes a glamorous symbol for Hollywood.
1932 On a Friday evening in 1932, struggling young actress, Peg Entwhistle, 24, climbs up to the top of the letter H, and takes a swan dive into the mountain, achieving in death the fame that eluded her in life.
Mid-1940’s By the mid-1940’s the Sign has begun to deteriorate. It is in such a state of disrepair that the neighborhood, now thriving, wants the Sign removed. The developers decide to sell their last 450 acres, which include the Sign, and turn it over to the City of Los Angeles. The Sign becomes a part of Griffith Park.
1949 The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce enters into a contract with the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Parks and Recreation to repair and rebuild the Sign and remove the “land” so that it would spell “Hollywood.” The cost is estimated at $4,000. The light bulbs are long gone and the City stipulates that any new illumination would be at the expense of the Chamber. The Chamber gives the Sign a complete makeover. Over the next 30 years the Sign would require constant repairs, and sometimes celebrities would help.
1973 Gloria Swanson sponsors yet another complete makeover of the Sign. The 50-year-old Sign is declared a Historical Landmark by the City’s Cultural Heritage Board.
1978 Five years after the Swanson makeover, termites have infested the wood and an “O” has tumbled down the mountain. Arsonists set fire to the bottom of an “L.” The City decides the Sign would have to be completely rebuilt at a cost of $250,000, ten times the cost of the original.
Hugh Hefner steps in and throws a lavish fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion to raise funds for the rebuilding costs. To raise the additional funds needed to restore the Sign, celebrities and community leaders sponsor individual letters at $27,500 a piece. Alice Cooper sponsored an “O” in honor of Groucho Marx. Other letters are sponsored by Andy Williams and Gene Autry, among others.
August 1978 The old Sign is demolished and for the first time in more than 50 years, Angelenos are without the Sign for three months. Workers pour 194 tons of concrete to anchor the Sign, and helicopters drop a massive new steel frame in place. Placing on the corrugated baked enamel letters was the final step.
November 1978 The new Sign, four stories high, 450-feet long and weighing 480,000 lbs., is unveiled on Hollywood’s 75th Anniversary celebration in November 1978 live to a television audience of 60 million.
1984 The Sign is lit to celebrate the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
1992 The Hollywood Sign Trust is chartered as a California 501c non-profit organization. The purpose of the Trust is to physically maintain and secure the Sign; to educate the world about its historical and cultural significance; and to promote Hollywood as the center of the global entertainment industry.
1999 Panasonic Corporate Security Systems installs a state-of-the-art security system to protect the icon.
2000 In a spectacular display, The City of Los Angeles lights the Sign in an extravagant millennium countdown on New Year’s Eve 1999. The lighting of the Sign marks the launch of the Sign’s official web site, hollywoodsign.org. The Sign endures as the City of Los Angeles enters the 21st Century.
2003 The Sign celebrates its 80th anniversary at the opening night of AFI Fest 2003. The ceremony was hosted by AFI and the Hollywood Sign Trust and featured the iconic film star, Esther Williams.
2005 The Hollywood Sign Trust teams up with BayCal Painting and Red Diamond Coating to provide the Sign with its first major refurbishment in a decade. At a capacity-filled press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rappelled down the hillside and applied the final strokes of coating himself – a fitting tribute from the city of Los Angeles to its oldest and most important ‘ambassador.’
2009 The Sign’s security system is significantly upgraded with the newest software and hardware; the Sign is monitored 24 hours a day by City of Los Angeles security specialists. Security enhancements are a cooperative project between the City and the Hollywood Sign Trust.
April 2010: Thirty-two years after the Sign was rebuilt, the Sign’s #1 fan, Hugh Hefner, presents the Hollywood Sign Trust with the closing gift to ‘Save the Peak,’ capping efforts to raise funds to purchase and protect the 138 acres behind the Hollywood Sign. Thanks to Mr. Hefner’s contribution, grants from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Aileen Getty, along with contributions from Hollywood leaders and fans around the world, the view that is inseparable from this cultural landmark will be protected. A star-studded press conference is held atop Mt. Lee, featuring remarks from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Hollywood Sign Trust Chairman Chris Baumgart, and Trust for Public Land President Will Rogers.