History | Travel

The Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood sign that clings to the southern side of Mount Lee in Los Angeles was first built in 1923, reconstructed in 1949 and again in 1978. It was repainted in 2005. The letters are 45 feet tall and the total length of the sign is 350 feet. Over the years it’s become the iconic symbol of Hollywood, and you can’t really visit the place without seeing the sign from some vantage point. On clear days there are plenty of those, but Griffin Park and the nearby Hollywood Sign Scenic Vista Point seem to be where most people go for close-up photos.

I confess, I’m not a fan of the celebrity fanaticism undercurrent of this place, but I appreciate the more creative output coming out of Hollywood and the people behind the scenes who do the work. I’d much rather take a studio tour to see how they create a movie than stand near a red carpet trying to catch a glimpse of some famous person. And sure, maybe it’s odd for me to be celebrating a plywood sign at all, but ultimately I seek out the landmarks that make a place unique, and there’s no other place with a hilltop sign as iconic as Hollywood.

The sign used to say “Hollywoodland”, built to advertise a development going in the early 1920’s. It became iconic with the growth of Hollywood and they dropped the “land” with the 1949 restoration. The first time I saw it, appropriately I suppose, was from the top floor of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (itself a place that makes you fall in love with the craft of moviemaking when you visit it). But you need to get closer for that true touristy picture, and the park and vista point are great spots for that purpose. As a side benefit you get to meet some great dogs.

Had time allowed I’d have hiked to the summit of 1,708 foot Mount Lee to see the sign from behind. That will have to wait for another trip and a clearer city below, for as clear as the sky was above us, smog enveloped the city below. That, sadly, is another thing Los Angeles is known for. And as a visitor from a place with crisp air and clear skies, the other thing you notice. But looking up, at least we had that blue sky.

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