If you, like Ke$ha, have hiked up behind the Hollywood Sign (or are intimately familiar with the Hollywood Sign Viewing Spot Wars), you know all about Mount Lee Drive, the only road up to the landmark. It's only open to pedestrians and city workers, but back when the area was the new Hollywoodland development, the road was built to lead up to a giant estate for film pioneer and Keystone Kops director Mack Sennett. The Daily Mirror tells the tale: in 1925, Sennett was sick of renting and "struck a deal with the developers of the Hollywoodland development to build a palatial home at the peak of the development, above the sign" (according to a 2002 NPR story, Sennett also happened to be overseeing the development's investment company).
Hollywoodland architect John L. DeLario designed the Sennett estate (initially set to cost about $250,000, but later $1 million)--it would've been an Italian villa with gardens inspired by Italy's Lake District, an outdoor theater, a mini golf course, a sand beach, and a swimming pool that would also irrigate the grounds. But first they needed a road from Mulholland Highway. A "work crew of two steam shovels, tractors, trucks, road-graders, and men" blasted up the hill, finishing work in early 1926. The Hollywoodland developers opened the road up to visitors on weekday afternoons and all day Sundays.
But, as too many an Old Hollywood real estate story ends, "Sennett's fortune was already waning" and he gave the land back. In the late thirties, the Don Lee Company bought the peak for their radio transmission tower (which is how it got the name Mount Lee). That tower now belongs to the city of LA.
· Mary Mallory: Hollywood Heights – Mack Sennett [Daily Mirror]