David Thomson reviews The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon by Leo Braudy:
It was in 1923 that the original sign, HOLLYWOODLAND, a gimmick and a brazen caption, was put up near the top of that hill, in letters fifty feet high and thirty feet wide. They were wooden structures, supported by telegraph poles, with tin and white paint facings. The sign advertised a housing development in the area below the slopes of Mount Lee, in the Santa Monica mountains, close to Griffith Park. It was built on rough ground, so the sign was never in type-set alignment. From the start there was a wavery touch of emotion to it ...
(Photo by Flickr user Anthony Citrano)
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