Reel Culver City Winter 2008

Reel Culver City

by Marc Wanamaker

BEVERLY HILLS & CULVER CITY SPEEDWAYS

The Culver City Speedway that was once located south of Culver Boulevard at Overland Avenue had its beginnings at Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

The mile-and-a-quarter wood board Speedway was originally constructed by the Speedway Association of Beverly Hills and was conceived by Beverly Hills real estate entrepreneurs, Silsby Spalding, Cliff Durant, Charles Canfield, Jake Dansinger among others. The Los Angeles Speedway track (as it was first named) measured 193 acres when it was opened in February of 1920.

For several years, the greatest names in motor racing appeared at the Speedway under the administration of the National Racing Circuit. The stadium was also used by the Beverly Hills Horse Show, the flower show, aviation shows and other events that brought thousands to Beverly Hills.

The Speedway was demolished after the Washington Day race in 1924, and the tract was purchased for development. Today, most of the former Speedway land has been developed into single family homes and apartment houses south of Wilshire. The area where the former Speedway once stood is now approximately bounded by South Beverly Drive, Charleville Blvd., Gregory Way and Spalding Drive.

In 1922, encouraged by the growing patronage of the Culver City nightclubs that flourished at this time, CC Council members approved plans for a thoroughbred horse-racing track which was built along Culver Boulevard, bounded on the west by Overland Avenue.

CC TRACK OPENS IN 1923

Opening in 1923, the track did not attract the crowds that were expected, and by Thanksgiving, 1924, the Council was looking for something else to substitute for horseracing. It was at this time that Beverly Hills was giving up its auto racing Speedway and a deal was made to move it to the horseracing site in Culver City.

After approval by the Culver City Council, the Speedway track (made of wood) was purchased and re-assembled in the Fall of 1924, south of Culver Blvd., replacing the horseracing track. By this time auto racing was very popular and the crowds came to Culver City from all over Southern California. The world’s best drivers competed at the track, one of them was Ralph De Palma who set several speed records on the track that had a capacity of 60,000 spectators.

The wooden track was banked at a 43 degree angle creating conditions for high speed racing in cars that had little protection for the drivers if they crashed. Like Beverly Hills, other types of events were held at the track such as horse shows and location filmmaking since the track was located adjacent to the newly named Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. The race track, which might be compared to the Indie 500 track of today, made Culver City an entertainment destination until the property was acquired in 1927 and, by 1928, the site had become Victory Park (now Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park), which is bounded by Braddock Drive, Motor Ave., Le Bourget, and Park Place, nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood – a far cry from the rowdy crowds of its heyday!

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