The Hollywood sign—America’s favorite collection of 45-foot-tall letters that spell out “Hollywood”—has gone through its fair share of changes since it was first erected on Mount Lee in Los Angeles in 1923. It was almost lost forever in the ‘70s as environmental wear and tear and vandalism took their toll, but the sign was rescued and restored to its original state in 1978. Well, almost its original state—the landmark used to have four additional letters, and it read “Hollywoodland.”

While the sign has become synonymous with show business, it began as an advertisement for a suburban subdivision. Real estate developer (and Los Angeles Times publisher) Harry Chandler broke ground on his upscale Hollywoodland development in March of 1923. Later that year, he invested some $21,000 for the massive signage. According to the Hollywood Sign Trust’s official website, “Each of the original 13 letters was 30 feet wide and approximately 43 feet tall, constructed of 3×9′ metal squares rigged together by an intricate frame of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles…All of this material had to be dragged up precipitous Mt. Lee by laborers on simple dirt paths.”

The sign was festooned with 4,000 20-watt light bulbs and blinked, in sequence, “HOLLY”…”WOOD”…”LAND.”

Chandler’s “Hollywoodland” sign was originally supposed to stay up for a year and a half, but it remained for decades and deteriorated to a bedraggled mess in the ‘40s. Because it had become such a recognizable feature of the emerging industry town, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. parks department (upon whose land the sign sat on) agreed to restore the sign—but removed the “land” suffix.