November 1978 - Hollywood Sign Restored

Hollywood Sign
The rebuilt Hollywood sign in November 1978. | Photo: L.A. Times/UCLA Library Digitial Collections/Creative Commons License

On November 14, 1978, the Hollywood Sign, L.A.'s most recognizable landmark, was re-dedicated, completing a major restoration program following years of neglect, thanks to the financial help of influential members of the Hollywood community,

Built in 1923 to advertise a real estate tract called "Hollywoodland," the sign, erected on the south face of Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains above Hollywood, originally bore the 13 letters of the development, each 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Built by the Crescent Sign Company and designed by its owner, Thomas Fisk Goff, the sheet metal sign supported by wood scaffolding was outfitted with over 4,000 light bulbs and was illuminated at night.

The sign was only intended to last for 18 months, but soon became part of the visual landscape and local lore. In 1932, 24 year old actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping to her death off of the letter "H." Other letters were damaged over the years, and the sign underwent a restoration process in 1949 headed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks. The "LAND" portion was removed, and the sign from then on became the "HOLLYWOOD" sign.

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In 1978, the sign, visibly neglected with graffiti and holes, underwent a major restoration campaign, spearheaded by Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. Public donations were solicited, appearing on supermarket shopping bags and billboards, and much of the restoration cost was financed through major donations of Hollywood celebrities, producers, publishers, and executives.

The major donors were Hollywood Independent newspaper publisher Terrence Donnelly ("H"); movie producer Giovanni Mazza ("O"); Kelley Blue Book publisher Les Kelley ("L"); actor Gene Autry ("L"); Hugh Hefner ("Y"); singer Andy Williams ("W"); Warner Bros. Records ("O"); rock musician Alice Cooper ("O"); and private citizen Thomas Pooley, donating in the name of friend Matthew Williams ("D"). Each donor gave $27,777 each, totaling $250,000.

The new letters were five feet shorter than the original, but the supporting scaffolding behind them were constructed of more durable steel. Security fencing and surveillance cameras were eventually installed to prevent vandalism and intruders. The new sign was no longer illuminated, but was lit up with external lighting during the 1984 Olympic Games and New Year's Eve of 2000. The sign went through a minor restoration program in 2005, when it was re-painted.

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