Before the studios and the stars, Hollywood was pastureland — dotted by citrus groves, barns, and large herds of cows (and the occassional camel). That all changed in the 1920’s. The film industry had boomed, and the large barns were easily converted into studios. Real estate companies tried to take advantage of the sudden growth, and one erected a very large (and at that time considered very tacky) ad: the word “Hollywood” displayed on the hills.
The movie industry survived the Great Depression and two world wars, but the sign barely did. In 1976 some very bored truants manipulated it to read “Hollyweed”. Two years later, another group edited it to “Holywood” (because of a visit by Pope John Paul). In the 80s, during the Iran contra scandal, it was once again vandalized into “Ollywood”.
The sign was falling apart, sparking a community-wide “Save the Sign” campaign. About $250,000 was raised — and now, it stands proud.