March is Academy Awards month. No dog has ever won an Oscar - animals aren't eligible - but three dogs have gotten a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart, a German Shepherd from the silent film era). Your dog probably won't be much interested in that but those ears will perk up when it comes to the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign in Griffith Park.
The seeds of one of the world’s great city parks were sown with the arrival of Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith from Wales in 1865 to make a fortune in California gold mines. In 1882 Griffith came to Los Angeles and purchased 4,071 acres of an original Spanish land grant, Rancho Los Felix. In 1896 he gave more than 3,000 acres of California oaks, wild sage and manzanita to the city as a Christmas present - “a place of relaxation and rest for the masses.”
Today Griffith Park is the largest urban wilderness area in America, including 53 miles of trails, fire roads and bridle paths. Many feature views of the famous Hollywood sign - the 6-mile Mt. Hollywood Trail climbs to the top. The sign first appeared on the side of Mt. Lee in 1923 and was originally miscast as an advertising sign for a real estate development, “Hollywoodland.” Each of the original letters was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, stitched together of metal squares, wires and pipes. It featured 4,000 20-watt bulbs spaced eight inches apart. The giant billboard cost $21,000 and was only intended to stand for about 18 months.
Instead the sign trundled on for decades, eventually resembling a Vaudeville act on the road too long. Hollywoodland went bust in the 1940s. The unmaintained sign was propped up by the Chamber of Commerce who dropped the last four letters but it went on rusting and crumbling for years. In 1978 the old sign was scrapped and re-born with 194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel and stands
today as the most recognizable icon of American culture to the world.
It is illegal to hike to the sign, perched safely behind restrictive fences, today, with or without a dog. You will get plenty of time with the sign in Griffith Park, however. Tail-friendly touches include a dog park adjacent to Ferraro Soccer Field and rides for dogs on the Los Angeles Live Steamers miniature train.
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