As this photo from the 1920's shows, the famous landmark originally had more to offer by way of 4 extra letters. Constructed in 1923 at a cost of $21,000, the sign was meant to advertise Hollywoodland, a new, upscale housing development near the center of the Hollywood district. Originally built of poles, pipes & wires and incorporating 4,000 20-watt lightbulbs, the flashing banner was expected to only last a year.
The sign quickly became a landmark, rising in popularity while succumbing to neglect. By 1949, the sign was scheduled for a large repair and makeover by the City of Los Angeles, which included the removal of the "land", resulting in "Hollywood".
The sign deteriorated further until 1978, when it was demolished and rebuilt over 3 months, at a cost of $250,000. With the public unveiling, the sign's appearance and dimensions have remained largely the same, with refurbishing as needed.
Sidenote: There was another unofficial and less publicized remodeling performed by a Mr. Danny Finegood, Jan 1, 1976.. The day California's relaxed marijuana law took effect.