Turning 100, the Hollywood sign is an American pilgrimage
20.11.2023 - 15:37
LOS ANGELES -- For visitors atop Mount Lee, getting this close to the Hollywood sign is no less an American pilgrimage than visiting the Statue of Liberty.
Kim and Tracy Ellis, sisters from West Sussex, England, said they've wanted to see the sign up close for 30 years.
When an engine failed on their flight from London in September, it ended up taking two days and four hotels for them to get here. They said it was worth it.
"This is America for us," Kim Ellis said.
The Hollywood sign turns 100 on Dec. 8, a date chosen because it was when the sign was first lit up in 1923, the year it was built. But the fact that the letters reached this age, or stature, would have never been imagined when they were first erected as an advertisement for a real estate development.
Historic photo of the Hollywood Sign being built. Photo Credit: Hollywood Sign Trust
The idea was to temporarily get more eyes on homes being built in an area called Hollywoodland, which is what the original 45-foot letters spelled out. One hundred years later, not only are the first nine letters still standing, shortened to Hollywood in 1949, but they make up perhaps the most recognizable sign on the planet.
Jeff Zarrinnam, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, called the sign a symbol not only of Los Angeles and California but, echoing the Ellis sisters, of America. In a city with so much to see, the sign is Los Angeles' most photographed site.
"The Hollywood sign is beloved and represents so many hopes and dreams for people around the world," Zarrinnam said. "It is our Statue of Liberty."
The view from behind the Hollywood sign. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill
The sign is located on the very edge of L.A.'s sprawling Griffith Park, and there are several hikes that will take visitors to the point behind the sign where they can congregate for views and photos. Several companies on sites like Viator and GetYourGuide offer guided tours and hikes.
I joined Zarrinnam, a hotelier who chairs the trust as a labor of love, on a Tuesday morning in September. Quite a few tourists from around the world had already made their way to the road overlooking the back of the letters, the closest one can get to the sign without illegally hopping a fence, something that has been done in movies. (Often playing a supporting role, the sign has also been destroyed by aliens, swallowed by an earthquake and ripped apart by a tornado.)
Charlotte Barrere, visiting from France, said, "to go to L.A. is to see the sign. It's very special."
A family from Florida was no less excited. Maya Sims and Khalida and Kery Clark said the sign was part of a greatest-hits tour of L.A. that included the Walk of Fame, the Santa Monica Pier and Chinatown. "It's part of history,"