THOMAS FISK GOFF was born in London, England August 15, 1890.
By the 1920s, Goff had settled in Los Angeles, California and began his own company, the Crescent Sign Company.
H.J. Whitley had used a sign to advertise his real estate development of Whitley Heights, which was located between Highland Avenue and Vine Avenue. Whitley suggested to his friend Harry Chandler, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, that the land syndicate in which he was involved make a similar sign to advertise their land. This new housing development was located in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles and managed by read estate developer Woodruff and Shoults.
Woodruff and Shoults called this new development “Hollywoodland” and advertised it as a “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.
Chandler contacted Woodruff and Shoults and recomended a sign similar to the one in Whitley Heights.
Woodruff and Shoults contracted with Thomas Goff and his Crescent Sign Company to erect thirteen letters “Hollywoodland” on the hillside of Mount Lee, each facing south.
Goff designed the sign and installed each 30 ft wide and 50 ft high white capital letter that ended up being 350-foot-long. The letters were studded with some 4,000 light bulbs. Goff designed the sign so that the letters would flash in segments; “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” and “LAND” would light up individually, before lighting up entirely.
Below the Hollywoodland sign was a searchlight to attract even more attention. The poles that supported the sign were hauled to the site by mules. From the ground, the contours of the hills give the sign its well-known “wavy” appearance. When observed at a comparable altitude, the letters appear straight-across. The cost of the project was $21,000.
The sign was officially dedicated July 13, 1923 and was not intended to be permanent.
After losing his business to the Great Depression, Goff went to work for the Federal Art Project for the duration of the 1930’s.
Then he became a field director for the American Red Cross during World War II.
In 1949, with the rise of the American cinema industry in Los Angeles, the Hollywoodland sign was renovated, dropping the four last letters, becoming an internationally recognized symbol.
Goff went on to become a prolific painter of more than 5,000 paintings, his favorite subjects were old barns and Morro Rock.
Thomas Goff died in Atascadero, California on January 30, 1984.
Today the Hollywood sign is protected and promoted by the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to physically maintain, repair and secure the sign, to educate the world about its historical and cultural importance, and to raise the funds necessary to accomplish these projects.
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