An early design concept for the Don Lee studios on Mt. Lee. (courtesy of Steve Dichter)

However, since television signal transmissions were limited to line-of-sight, large population areas such as the San Fernando Valley were unable to receive his broadcasts.

In 1938, the Don Lee Network (now run by Don’s son Thomas) purchased a 20-acre site just behind the Hollywood Sign, an area that was co-owned by the original developer of the Hollywoodland project and Mack Sennett, the silent film director and father of “slapstick” comedy. Plans included a true state-of-the-art broadcast studio and transmission tower, indoor and outdoor filming facilities, a swimming pool, a suspended control room that would move on a track and more.

When the facility was completed in 1939, it boasted the highest elevation television transmission tower in the world and ushered in a new era in Hollywood’s storied history. The 300-foot tower broadcast from over 2,000 feet above sea level or (in terms that would have impressed any American at the time) one and a half times the height of New York’s Empire State Building.

Early PR for the glamorous Los Angeles lifestyle: Live broadcast by the pool in 1939 at the Don Lee studios. (courtesy of Steve Dichter)

From this location, the network broadcast a wide range of programming, including both in-studio and remotely filmed shows. In 1940, it became the first station on the West Coast to transmit a live remote telecast, using an elaborate radio relay system to send a live signal of Pasadena’s famous Tournament of Roses Parade to Mount Lee and then out over the tower. By 1941, it was operating about two hours per day.

After the war ended, Mt. Wilson was identified as a better location for broadcast towers and all three then-existing television broadcasters moved their transmission towers to this peak.

The site atop Mount Lee and the large radio tower still seen there today eventually came to be operated and owned by the City of Los Angeles.