A History of the Hollywood Sign in 16 Rare Photos

From ”Hollywoodland” to ”Hollyweed”
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The Hollywood sign was meant to be a temporary advertisement for a new housing tract, but it evolved into the most famous sign in the world. The landmark (it was named City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #111 in 1973) has been modified, vandalized, allowed to deteriorate, completely replaced, and left out in the rain for more than 90 years, but it continues to endure.

Historian Bruce Torrence, whose grandfather Charles E. Toberman built the Chinese, Egyptian, and El Capitan theaters and was dubbed “The Father of Hollywood,” spent months researching the long history of the sign and created an incredibly thorough timeline at his new website Hollywood Sign History.  His 11,000-word treatise includes a look back on the suicide of Peg Entwistle, the mystery of the “white dot,” and the star-studded 1970s party at the Playboy Mansion that ultimately helped save the sign. Before you grab some popcorn and dig into Torrence’s epic saga, we present a brief visual history of the Hollywood Sign.

A steam shovel is at work preparing the land for the Hollywood Sign in 1923

Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Two ladies are suspended high above the Hollywood Sign as they ride on the shovel from Western Construction Co.’s working steam shovel.

Photograph from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public LIbrary

The dedication of the Hollywoodland Sign in 1923

Photograph Courtesy Bruce Torrence

The Hollywodland Sign illuminated by thousands of tiny light bulbs in the 1930s

Photograph Courtesy Bruce Torrence

Ethel Schultheis hiking in the Hollywood Hills in the 1930s, the “Hollywoodland” sign in the distance

Photograph by Herman Schultheis /Los Angeles Public Library

“Hollywoodland” Sign with the first letter fallen to the side, 1940s

Photograph by Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The original Hollywood Sign on August 8, 1978, shortly before it was demolished and replaced

Photograph by Ken Papaleo/Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The Hollywood Sign in serious deterioration during the 1970s

Photograph Courtesy Bruce Torrence

The unveiling of the new Hollywood Sign in 1978

Photograph Courtesy Bruce Torrence

The sign was changed to read “Hollyweed” in 1983

Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Midshipmen from the Naval Academy changed the sign in 1983

Mike Sergieff / Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Cal Tech students altered the sign in 1987

Photograph by Michael Haering/ Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Member of Community Youth Gang Services repaints the sign in 1985

Photograph by Paul Chinn/ Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public LIbrary

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council member Tom LaBonge, and Chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust Chris Baumgart help paint the sign in 2005

Photograph by David Livingston/Getty Images

The Hollywood Sign still shines bright in the 21st century

Photograph by David McNew/Getty Images)

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