Mount Lee

Mount Lee
Elevation 1,708 ft (521 m) NAVD 88[1]
Location Los Angeles County, California, USA
Range Santa Monica Mountains
Coordinates 34°08′05″N 118°19′18″W / 34.134597025°N 118.321740739°W / 34.134597025; -118.321740739Coordinates: 34°08′05″N 118°19′18″W / 34.134597025°N 118.321740739°W / 34.134597025; -118.321740739[1]
Topo map USGS Burbank
Easiest route Hike

Mount Lee is a peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California, USA. The famous Hollywood Sign is located on its southern slope. The sign is visible north of the Mulholland Highway. A good view of it can be had by driving north up Gower Street from Hollywood Boulevard to see the sign directly ahead, and then north along Beachwood Drive. One can also take Franklin Ave. directly to Beachwood. This is the location of the Hollywoodland suburb for which the sign was created.



To advertise the new Beachwood Canyon real estate development, the developers, including Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler and silent movie pioneer Mack Sennett, ordered a huge wooden sign built atop what is now known as Mount Lee. The mountain is named after early Los Angeles car dealer and radio station owner Don Lee. Lee, a one-time bicycle shop owner who became a protégé of Los Angeles pioneer businessman Earle C. Anthony, purchased his Los Angeles radio station KHJ from Chandler in 1927.

Four years later Lee began experimenting with television using call letter W6AXO. Studios were on the seventh floor of a building at Seventh and Bixel near his Cadillac dealership. Within a short time the transmitter was moved atop of what is now called Mount Lee. An early reference to this name is in a June, 1939, article in a magazine published by the California Chamber of Commerce: “(Lee has bought a 20-acre site on a mountain top at the eastern boundary of Griffith Park, widening the transmission field of the Don Lee equipment to take in new thousands of homes in the Hollywood hills and the San Fernando Valley. The site is one and a half times higher than the top floor of the Empire State Building in New York. Mount Lee is thus the highest television location in the world. The transmitter is being rebuilt for installation on the mountain.”

According to Wikimapia the immediate seller was not the original development company, but Mack Sennett personally, "who wasn't doing too well in the post-silent Hollywood era and really needed the money." Lee was the first of what had become by 1939 three active pre-World War 2 pioneers. The others were Paramount Studios and Lee’s mentor Earle C Anthony, operating as KTLA (originally W6XYZ) and KSEE (originally W6XEA) respectively (W6AXO was by this time KTSL – standing for Thomas S Lee, who had succeeded to his father’s position when Don Lee died in 1934.).

Lee’s television head was Harry Lubcke, Paramount had the legendary Klaus Landsburg and Anthony had the venerable KFI radio dual chief engineer team of Headly Blatterman/George Mason. All three recognized that television signals from Mount Lee and similar points was inadequate to reach the greater Los Angeles basin. They needed a point overlooking the entire area. Part of Mount Lee was sold to Howard Hughes, who intended to erect an estate for his then current love interest, Ginger Rogers.

View of Los Angeles from Mount Lee

The Rogers relationship soured and the mansion was never built. After utilization during the war by the U. S. Army the property remained an idle asset for decades, eventually becoming part of the Hughes estate. Meanwhile the three Los Angeles television pioneers were scouting out a more suitable location. Television experimentation was stopped during the war but post-war preparations continued. The new site was code named “Mt. Anthony” in KFI-AM house organs of the day. After hostilities ended it turned out that Mt. Anthony was really Mt Wilson – which is now the site of not only Los Angeles television stations but also many FM radio stations. As for Mount Lee, it continued to be the site of various non-commercial radio activities, but its television career was over.

In 2002 the Hughes estate sold 138 acres (56 ha) of their Mount Lee holdings to a group of Chicago investors. This opened up the possibility of development of four residential buildings adjacent to the sign. Many Angelenos, especially those in he movie industry, felt this would be sacrilege. A successful effort was mounted in 2010 to raise funds to purchase the land and add it to the adjacent Griffith Park.

The large radio tower atop Mount Lee today is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. Smaller tenants on the site have included some federal government and amateur radio users.


Mount Lee can be hiked, however, the immediate area where the Hollywood Sign is located is closed to the public as the area is a high-risk fire zone. Many documentaries and blogs online give instructions on how to legally hike up Mount Lee and get as close to the Hollywood Sign as allowed by law.

The trail leading to the Hollywood Sign can be accessed several different ways, the primary access-point being Mulholland Highway, which connects to the gated and private Mount Lee Drive. Mount Lee Drive is open to hikers, however is closed to vehicular traffic, except for security trucks which pass by on a periodic basis throughout the day. A secondary access point is Beachwood Canyon Drive, the terminus of which takes you to Sunset Ranch Stables. Towards the rear of the ranch, a link to the hiking trail, dubbed the Hollyridge Trail, can be found.[2]

Griffith Park

Because Mount Lee's hiking trails and fire roads are part of Griffith Park, it's easy to get lost and be redirected. Maps of the trails and the land around the hills should be studied before attempting to hike the area for the first time.[3]

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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