What Did the Hollywood Sign Originally Say?

You've heard of Wonderland, Graceland, and Finland, but what about Hollywoodland? Well, if you had lived in Los Angeles many decades ago, you probably would have.

The Hollywood sign originally said "Hollywoodland" when it was erected in 1923 to advertise a housing development.
The Hollywood sign originally said "Hollywoodland" when it was erected in 1923 to advertise a housing development.

While you might imagine that the giant "Hollywood" sign that sits on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains has always looked the same, when it was erected in 1923, it actually read: "Hollywoodland." Back then, it wasn't meant to symbolize the glamorous world of cinema, but was built as a marketing tool to advertise an upscale real estate development owned by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler. He and his partners forked over $21,000 USD (worth about $250,000 today) to incorporate 4,000 lights onto the 45-foot-tall (13.7-meter) white block letters that were held up by telephone poles. Every night, the sign would light up in this order: "Holly," "Wood," "Land," and finally, "Hollywoodland."

The sign remained relatively the same until the 1940s, though it slowly deteriorated. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce opted to restore the "Hollywood" part and remove the "Land."

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign:

  • The brightly lit "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign was built in 1959 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places; it's ubiquitous in part because it has never been copyrighted.

  • Every New Englander knows the giant Citgo sign that has identified Boston since 1965, except for four years in the 1970s, when energy concerns prompted its shut off.

  • A giant donut sits atop a little place called Randy's Donuts in Los Angeles; the novelty landmark has appeared in everything from The Simpsons to Iron Man 2.

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    • The Hollywood sign originally said "Hollywoodland" when it was erected in 1923 to advertise a housing development.
      By: Perseomedusa
      The Hollywood sign originally said "Hollywoodland" when it was erected in 1923 to advertise a housing development.