Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

HOLLYWOODLAND's voice was not alone. Other hillsides also spoke. Across Los Angeles in the 1920s, signs announced new real-estate subdivisions in big block letters perched high above the city. BEVERLY CREST. BRYN MAWR. TRYON RIDGE.

Time has largely forgotten these other signs. One still rusts away in the chaparral day, toppled and discarded long ago.

The Hollywoodland Sign —a mere real-estate advertisement when it rose from the face of Mt. Lee in November 1923, as disposable as the rest—might have suffered a similar fate. But as Hollywood soon became an accepted metonym for L.A.'s glamorous film industry, the sign's letters acquired a new meaning. Nine decades later, it's become one of the city's greatest monuments—a journey richly chronicled by USC cultural historian Leo Braudy.

Beverly Terrace

This sign might have predated Hollywoodland's. Angled toward Beverly Hills from the slopes above Benedict Canyon, these giant white letters advertised Beverly Terrace, a 110-acre subdivision that developer George E. Read opened in 1922.

Here's a circa 1922 aerial view of the sign from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL):

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Beverly Crest

Seemingly a close relative of the Hollywoodland Sign, Beverly Crest's block-letter sign first appeared on the slopes above Coldwater Canyon in December 1923—only one month after Hollywoodland's. Large signs weren't all the two developments had in common; they also both featured elaborate stone gates modeled after fairy-tale castles.

Like Beverly Terrace, Beverly Crest was the work of George E. Read. Though its sign rose in 1923, houses and lots didn't hit the market until 1926. Here's a 1926 view of the Beverly Crest Sign from the USC Libraries' Dick Whittington Photography Collection:

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

And here's a circa 1923 aerial view from the LAPL's Security Pacific National Bank Collection:

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Bryn Mawr

The hillside subdivision of Bryn Mawr opened just west of Hollywoodland in 1924—and of course it featured its own block-letter advertisement. Here's an aerial view of the sign, located near the Mulholland Dam and Lake Hollywood, from the LAPL's Photo Collection:

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Taken from a nearby hilltop, this photo (also from LAPL's Photo Collection) provides a somewhat closer look at the letters:

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Tryon Ridge

Another Hollywood Hills subdivision, Tryon Ridge also opened to sales in 1924. Unlike the other signs held up by stilts, these letters were embedded into the hillside itself. Here's an aerial view from LAPL's Security Pacific National Bank Collection:

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Eagle Rock

In 1911, what was once a small farming community in the rural Eagle Rock Valley north of Los Angeles incorporated as the independent city of Eagle Rock. Did that act occasion the sign (barely) visible atop the San Rafael Hills in this photo from the LAPL's Security Pacific National Bank Collection?

Before the Hollywood Sign Found Fame, Others Signs Dotted LA's Hillsides

Top image: A detail of this 1924 photo, courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.