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The History of Hollywood, California. U.S.A. (Part 2)

Hunter and visitor’s Tip:

The earliest street names were changed once the city was annexed. The most prominent changes were similar to this one, for example: 100 Prospect Avenue, at Vermont Avenue, became 6400 Hollywood Boulevard; and 100 Cahuenga Boulevard, at Hollywood Boulevard, changed to 1700 Cahuenga Boulevard. This is important for those of you, who might wish to visit the original sites of a few of the no-longer-existing buildings from Early Hollywood, such as the Hollywood Hotel or Mary Pickford’s mansion “Pickfair”.

Pickfair-1920 (1)

Mary Pickford’s Mansion


The Hollywood Sign

The famous Hollywood Sign originally read “Hollywoodland“. Built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, as an indulgent $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development in the hills above Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign has been an iconic landmark of the American Dream for years.

Controversy about exactly when the Hollywood sign and the real estate project that coined  the massive electric sign advertising it actually came into being, is a regular debate among historians and enthusiasts which is still hot today. But a review of local newspapers from the era (i.e., The Los Angeles Times, Holly Leaves, Los Angeles Record, Los Angeles Examiner and the Hollywood Daily Citizen) clears up any confusion. For instance, a Hollywoodland ad in theLos Angeles Times (June 10, 1923) states that the real estate development launched in late March of that year and that by June, 200 men were employed, 7 miles of road had been cut and 300,000 cubic yards of dirt had been moved.

Even though the most commonly reported date for the erection of the sign seems to be 1924, early accounts of the sign in newspapers such as The Holly Leaves in 1923, mention the sign in their article about the construction of the Mulholland Highway. This would seem to prove the actual erection date was 1923, not 1924.

Further debates about whether or not the sign was originally erected with or without lights, why the last four letters were removed, and

Historic photos from the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph collection clear up some of the confusion. These pics were taken while construction of the sign was in progress and show workers carrying boards covered with lights in frames. According to curator of the photo collection in question, Bruce Torrence, the shape of the light boxes indicate that these sections were probably part of the letter “A” and possibly one of the “L’s.”

A monumental undertaking, each of the original letters was 30 feet wide and about 43 feet tall, and made of materials that were dragged up tiny dirt roads by grotesquely underpaid construction workers.

The sign itself was only intended to be left up on Lee mountain for about two years, but still stands to this day, not without it’s share of trials, refurbishings, and “face-lifts”. In 1949 the the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce completed the first major refurbishment of the sign. The sign had fallen into such great disrepair that a decision to  remove the “LAND” part and replacing the “H” after it had toppled over, had been made. There is also some debate as to exactly what caused the “H” to fall over. Rumor has it that it was a brooding storm.

The sign underwent a major resurrection, again in 1978 when major Hollywood celebrities began a champaign to save the deteriorating sign from any further neglect. Celebrities would continue to play a pivotal role in the preservation of this iconic marvel for the next few decades. In 2012, Hugh Heffner reportedly plopped down almost a million dollars according to People Magazine: “The Playboy founder has donated the final $900,000 needed to preserve 138 acres behind the film capital’s most famous visual symbol on Mount Lee, just as time was running out. ”

Hollywood and the Great Movie Studio Migration

to be continued…

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