Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Americana: The Hollywood Sign


The sign originally went up in 1923 to promote a real estate development, and proclaimed HOLLYWOODLAND. The Depression took care of the real estate, and finally, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce rescued the sign. Uploaded by luxuryvacationsource.com.

By 1923, the little California city of Hollywood was already synonymous with the movie industry. The lure of “Tinseltown,” with its proximity to the ocean and its warm climate, attracted people – and people need homes. So a new neighborhood sprang up in the hills, and its developer erected a huge sign to feature his investment: HOLLYWOODLAND.

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Each letter was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, and was originally illuminated by lights around its perimeter. At night blinked in sequence HOLLY… WOOD… LAND. Over the years the sign became neglected, however, and the Depression put an end to the real estate dream. The sign became city property in 1944. Fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce recognized what a symbol the sign had become, and revived it in 1949. It removed the “LAND”, and rebuilt the H, which had toppled, briefly leaving the area known as OLLYWOOD.

But after another generation of neglect, by the 1970s the sign had again fallen into disrepair. And this time, it had to be completely rebuilt. That took place in 1978, and today the sign is protected as a National Landmark and its own Hollywood Sign Trust. Today, the sign is 450 feet wide and is visible from all parts of Hollywood. Interestingly, the sign appears uneven because of the contours of the mountain; but looked at directly in front from the air, it’s actually completely straight. Unlike the city it represents…

Travel: Catalina Island

People have spent the last 150 years trying to develop Catalina. But it has retained its quiet nature, and wants to keep it that way. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Doesn’t it surprise you that there’s a scenic island, only 22 miles away from Los Angeles (estimated 2010 population 4,000,000), that has only one small town and a population of under 4,000? Santa Catalina Island (usually called Catalina) would like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

In truth, folks have spent most of the last 150 years trying to figure out how to make Catalina into a popular tourist destination. William Wrigley, Jr., he of the chewing gum empire, bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 with the intent of making it a recreational and entertainment destination. He built infrastructure, had ships make regular runs from the mainland, even brought his Chicago Cubs to the island for spring training.

Catalina Casino. Uploaded to Flickr by Only in Cambodia.

The most distinctive structure Wrigley built was the Catalina Casino. This circular building is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and was constructed in the Art Deco style. But don’t let the name fool you — it never was a gambling hall. Its downstairs housed a huge movie theater, supposedly the first constructed specifically for movies with sound. Upstairs is a dance hall, in a building that stands the equivalent of twelve stories tall.

The primary town on Catalina is Avalon, with a population of about 3,100. It’s home to a picturesque harbor and a small but busy beach. Most of its activity today is oriented toward tourists, about a million of whom visit the island each year.

Today, William Wrigley’s son, Philip, has given his share of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which protects the island’s natural heritage. Oh, remember how his father brought the Cubs to Catalina for spring training? One year, one of their young broadcasters decided to slip away to nearby Hollywood and do a screen test while he was in town. The producers liked young Ronald Reagan, and the rest, as they say, is history…

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