Notes From Your City Historian: Spring 2017

Looking Back

Culver City’s Centennial year presents a wonderful opportunity for nostalgic looks back into our rich history. The last big celebration was the 75th Anniversary. Coordinated by the office of Syd Kronenthal, director of Parks and Recreation, the city formed a steering committee. It included Paul Jacobs, chair, Charles McCain, vice-chair, Susan Berg, secretary, and members Carolyn Cole, Jake Jakubowski, Syd Kronenthal, Carol Layana, Julie Lugo Cerra, Raechel Moskowitz, Steven J. Rose, Charles B. Smith and Albert Vera.

Culver City FilmFest graphics, 1992

The group offered a broad scope of community expertise, which included city employees, elected officials (city and school board), commissioners, senior activists, Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, and Homeowners Association leaders. Several of the members’ own history began in the Heart of Screenland. Local moviemaker Hal Roach, who was celebrating his 100th birthday that year, acted as the honorary chair.

75th Anniversary magazine (Culver City News)

That kickoff began on the steps of the Irving Thalberg Building on a historic movie lot (now Sony Pictures). Roger Mayer, then with Turner Entertainment, helped plan a Culver City Film Festival that featured selected short subjects and classic movies. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored a 75th Anniversary coffee table book. The Culver City News published a special oversize magazine with articles on the history of the city, and its many organizations, many of which took out ads to facilitate its publishing. The YMCA sold anniversary lapel pins, and that was just the tip of the iceberg! The 90th was also celebrated.

Pins for (from left) Culver City’s 90th celebration, centennial, and 75th.

 

For the Centennial, a 501(c)3 was formed in 2016 to manage activities, official events and products. Jim Clarke (now mayor) was the first chair, followed by former mayor Paul Jacobs. A kickoff, parade, gala at Sony Pictures Studios, commemorative lapel pins sponsored by the YMCA, and creative logo items are symbolic of the spirit of the year. We look forward to visits from our city founder’s family. Grandsons Chris Wilde, Dr. John Battle and family have been invited to represent the Culver family for the actual anniversary in September. Join the fun to celebrate our history. And think about items that should be included in a time capsule for our first hundred years!

Notes From Your City Historian: Winter 2017

Looking Back

As a new year emerges full of promise, it also sends us back in time to think about accomplishments, our city’s first hundred years, and its future. My interest in local history began with the Lugo Ranch, and was enhanced by a plea from my mother to “take your father to the new historical society.” My dad, she suggested, “would be a natural.” She was right, and it was fun!

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1981 Marking of Historic Site #1, City Hall. (L-to R) Councilmember Richard Alexander, CCHS President Catherine Zermeno, and Historic Sites Chair Charles R. Lugo.

 

The Society sparked my research on historic sites. The city had no ordinance to protect historic structures at that time, so in 1981 we were treading on uncharted waters. Politically, it was clear the city did not want to be restricted in issuing permits for structural or cosmetic changes. The bad news is that the 1928 City Hall is gone. The good news is that people can see the original plaque with names of the Board of Trustees at the time, from 1928 on the 3/4 façade entry to the current/same City Hall site, with updated information. In addition, the historic site plaque is read by many in the grassy area on the corner of Duquesne and Culver Boulevards.

Since then a Culver City Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC) was formed. Several society members served on the committee (including Judy Potik, Stephen Schwartz, Mary Ellen Fernandez, Carolyn Cole, and Jim Lamm). An Historic Preservation ordinance was passed by the City Council in 1990, and later, it was combined with Art in Public Places, codified and placed under a newly formed Cultural Affairs Commission. The results of that action can be seen on the city website and in plaques on historic structures like The Hull Building (CCHS Historic Site #2), The Citizen Building (CCHS Site #4), and many more. Artworks like the bronze lion sculpture fountain and the Culver Family in “A Moment In Time” (both of which can be found adjacent to The Culver Hotel) are examples of public art with a tie to local history.

Another benefit of local historic research is the cooperative City-Society partnership in providing tours. Our first bus tours were written for Fiesta La Ballona. The city provided the bus and driver while the Society’s contribution yielded the scripted route and trained docents. In the early days, we were often lucky to have Harry Culver’s daughter, Patricia Culver Battle, join us on board the 55-minute runs. A big challenge became return route information after Washington Boulevard. Sites seemed sparse after we turned onto La Cienega Boulevard. My father, with a little gleam in his eye, suggested I translate the word “La Cienega” for the answer. Somehow my high school Spanish classes did not talk much about “swamps,” but that became another bit of information to share!

As always, I encourage you to enjoy the benefits of our Culver City Historical Society. Visit the CCHS Archives, website, look for historic sites, the new bus wraps with historic photos, be active and share your insights into local history!

Notes From Your City Historian: Fall 2016

Walk With a Doc

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Hull Building

As you may be aware, “Walk with a Doc” started in Columbus, Ohio, and we are privileged to have an active program in Culver City thanks to Vice-Mayor Jeff Cooper, Jeffrey Penso, MD, Sarah Carpenter, MD, and Grace Elliot. The walks have traditionally taken place on the third Saturday of the month, from Veterans Memorial Park. After a warm-up with Brandon Webb, and pertinent info from one of the “Docs,” participants enjoy the suggested route at their own pace.

The Culver City Historical Society’s first partnering with this program was designed to thank organizer Grace, and ended with a tour of the Historical Society Archives. “Doc” Penso, a member of the Historical Society, has encouraged partnerships with other walks (expanded walks that focused on local points along the local route from Veterans Park, and others through Downtown Culver City, The Culver Studios, and the Helms District). In honor of our Centennial, our Culver City Historical Society will partner again to offer a unique historic perspective to selected tours during this celebratory year.

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City Hall/CCPD, CCFD (1922)

October 15, 2016, at 8:45AM, Downtown Culver City will be the first of these informative exercises! As your city historian and founding member of the Society, I am pleased to act as your tour guide. We will begin this Centennial walk from City Hall through Downtown. (Complimentary parking is available under City Hall). Culver City Historical Society docents will be stationed along the route to offer insight into some of the historic sites along the way. For example, past president Stu Freeman will be stationed at the Akasha restaurant entrance of the Hull Building. Stu will offer the Freeman family perspective, ownership that dates back to his grandfather’s purchase of the historic structure. If you would like to be a docent in front of another historic site, please call the Historical Society office (310-253-6941 or email info@CulverCityHistoricalSociety.org with your contact information). To get more information about being a walker in Walk with a Doc, check their website or Facebook page!

Notes From Your City Historian: Summer 2016

Think Fabric!  Think Conservation!

There is no doubt that Culver City has an interesting history! We receive inquiries continuously asking about people, places and things. Did you know that one of the most appreciated areas of our collection is often made of fabric? Yes, first, you probably think of the MGM costume collection for which we are caretaker—but the subject is limitless.

Sharon Shore, who just completed her term as our Costumes Chair, and continues to serve on the committee, offers a broader perspective on the reality that many of our fondest possessions as well as memories involve fabric. This could take the form of a quilt made by someone special, a piece of clothing created for an occasion, a unique pillow made from a grandpa’s ties, an apron constructed to be beautiful and utilitarian, and so much more!

We look for fabrics and patterns to suit our taste, for our draperies, bedspreads, furniture, carpets and beyond. We make time to visit museums like LACMA, the Getty, the Huntington, or Hearst Castle whose collections make us delight in artfully constructed tapestries, costumes, and historic clothing.

Sharon Shore, Director and Conservator of Caring for Textiles, a laboratory for textile conservation, maintains her private practice in Culver City.  She is an amazing resource to our Culver City Historical Society.  We benefit from her skills and mentorship. Sharon recently completed the book of research information on our costume collection. In addition, because of public interest, she and other members of her team constructed a book of the 60+ MGM Costumes. It contains photos with descriptions of each costume for public view.  It is readily available for research and general interest in the Archives.

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection.   The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection. The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Watch for an opportunity in the near future to talk to Sharon in one of our “Conversations” series on special interests, like Costumes and Fabric Conservation!

Here are a few quotes to reiterate the importance of “fabric”:

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” (Margaret Mead)

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” (Walter Benjamin)

“When the fabric of the universe becomes unknown, it is the duty of the university to produce weavers.” (Gordon Gee)

“If I want to calm down, I’ll buy some fabric, get a pattern, shut myself in a room and stay there for days, really happy. And at the end of it, you get a bedspread or some curtains or something to wear – it’s lovely.” (Twiggy)

Many of Culver City’s historic sites are featured on our fabric “throw” available through our onsite and online shops.

Notes From Your City Historian: Spring 2016

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The festive marking of the site of La Ballona School, now in its third structure. Did you know that La Ballona just celebrated its 150th anniversary?

The first “historic marker” to commemorate a historic site in Culver City, was placed on the colonnade entry of Thomas Ince’s first studio (now Sony Pictures) by the Native Daughters of the Golden West.  Our own Clarita Marquez Young was a part of that, years before our historical society was established. The next marking took place in Victory, now Dr. Paul Carlson Park, a Culver City Chamber of Commerce action to commemorate the Early Settler Families.

Our society’s marking process calls for identification of historic sites or structures  in Culver City that are at least fifty years old.  The society’s bylaws recognizes a Historic Sites Committee, which submits sites, with justification, to the board for action, with approval by the property owner for placement and wording for a bronze plaque.  Some are placed on a building, while others are mounted in concrete.  The committee orders the marker, within the funds budgeted.  Cost is a function of the size and number of words. From the beginning, our historical society used the opportunity to tell the story of the site.

After our society formed, Charles R. Lugo served as the first historic sites chair.  At that time, the city did not have an historic preservation ordinance, so it was a new venture for all of us.

The Historic Sites Committee plans the unveiling of the marker while the plaque is in production.  Invitations and publicity are sent by the society.  The program is a cooperative effort of the society and property owner.  Although the event itself is a festive occasion, the goal of preserving local history is met over time.

With the upcoming celebration of our city’s centennial year, we are looking for suggestions for a centennial marking, and members to serve on the committee.

To learn more about each site already marked, you can search here.  This is a list of sites we have marked to date:

#1   City Hall

#2   The Hull Building

#3   St. Augustine Church

#4   The Citizen Building

#5    The Legion Building

#6    Main Street

 #7   Ince Studio#2

#8    Lugo Ranch

#9    The Helms Building

#10  La Ballona School

#11  Camp Latham

#12  Culver City’s first park (Carlson)

#13  Veterans Memorial Building

To learn more about the sites marked, volunteer for the Historic Sites committee or offer a suggestion for a Centennial marking, please contact the society!