A Brief History of Culver City’s Major Houses of Worship

Culver City’s first house of worship, St. Augustine Church began when the Figueroa family donated land in 1883 in what was to become Culver City, when Washington Blvd. was just a dirt road. In 1887 a modest wood framed church that sat 200 was built, and in 1922 it was expanded to seat 500. On Christmas Morning 1957 the current church opened, which seats 1,070.

 


St. Augustine Church, c.1887 (donated to the Society by Christina Machado-Essex)

Before Temple Akiba was built, Culver City’s Jewish congregants held high holy days in Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The initial sanctuary on Sepulveda Blvd. was dedicated in1955, and its latest renovation, with a new entryway courtyard and a sanctuary including windows for the first time, was completed in 2015.

Culver-Palms United Methodist Church has enjoyed a prominent place on Sepulveda Blvd. next to the YMCA, First Southern Baptist Church is located in Culver City’s earliest neighborhood (just a couple of blocks from City Hall) and Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church on Overland is just a few blocks from Culver City High School. Early Grace Evangelical congregants met at the Scout Hut on Culver Blvd. before its members built the original church (now the Fireside Room) by hand, including pews and pulpit, in 1948. The main church, also built by church members including the wrought-iron, was dedicated in 1952 and seats 220.

Recent history has not been kind to Culver City Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Washington, which has been hit by cars four times, and Culver Community Church on Washington and Sawtelle has also had to deal with vehicle damage. Culver City Presbyterian Church, built circa 1950 and able to accommodate 224 with another 50 in the loft, has thrived despite the 405 Freeway having been built just a block away.

Culver City’s King Fahad Mosque, with its 2,000 worshiper capacity, marble façade, Turkish hand-made tiles, and 72-foot-high minaret, opened in July 1998. The mosque demonstrates Culver City’s diversity, both in terms of demographics and religious tolerance. When a group gathered in 2006 to protest at the mosque over unfounded connections to the 9/11 attacks, clergy from other faiths stood arm-in-arm to protect the King Fahad.

“Now that’s what I call people of the faith,” Usman Madha, Director of Administration and Public Relations, told Annenberg Digital News in 2011. “When you believe in God, you have mercy and love. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.”

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Our Centennial: A Recap

Culver City’s rich history encouraged and supported many activities in celebration of our first hundred years. Locals, under the umbrella of the Centennial Committee, planned a broad scope of events from the beginning of the year-long commemoration to the end: the kickoff at Sony Pictures; an old-fashioned community parade; a 5K Run through downtown, including both of our historic studio lots – Sony Pictures Studios and The Culver Studios; our Historic Bus Tours; and much more. There were many opportunities for residents to enjoy what I often call “painless education” – sweet bites of our amazing history!

(Culver) Battle-McMillan Family Plaque (Julie Lugo Cerra)

One of the highlights was the involvement of Culver family descendants. Pat Culver Battle, Harry Culver’s only child, was always a supportive presence in Culver City. Chris Wilde, her younger son who lived in Southern California for some time, gave us a helping hand by supporting the Society, and he served on the Centennial Committee as an advisor. Pat’s elder son, Dr. John Battle, and his family graciously planned their vacations to coincide with our closing ceremonies and presented the Society with a plaque. Meeting the newest member of the family, three-year-old Culver, and his older sister, Addison, resulted in many smiles.

Our schools participated on many levels, and streetlight banners showed off many students’ Centennial artwork. At the closing ceremony, representatives from our newest sister city, Capo de Oro, in Sicily, Italy, were in attendance to officially celebrate our relationship.

 

The Society’s first marker, presented in 1981 to commemorate the 1928 City Hall, was amongst the restored bronze plaques. (Julie Lugo Cerra)

Recently, the City Hall courtyard was renamed for the remarkable H. Dale Jones, who retired from his city service as Chief Administrative Officer. The courtyard will have a new Centennial garden with restored public artwork. Restoration so far has included the Society’s first marker.

 

“Yarnscape” quilt project is on view at the Culver City Julian Dixon Library. (Nancy Kuechle)

The Culver City Julian Dixon Library is exhibiting hand-made quilts that show off a plethora of our historic sites! Stop by the library to see them on display. And don’t forget to note the beautiful Japanese Meditation Garden in front, a gift from our second sister city, Kaizuka, Japan.

 

 

 

 

Please visit your Historical Society Archives to see our latest exhibit and to support the new board, headed by President Hope Parrish. Many good wishes for a productive term, with thanks to Michelle Bernardin and cabinet who have worked so hard!

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Preserving History

The Culver City Historical Society, like most non-profits, was established for all the right reasons! The effort was led by former Fire Chief and Mrs. John Kearney, Parks and Recreation Director Syd Kronenthal, and many others like Clarita Marquez Young, (our Madrina), Frank McCann, Cathy Zermeno, (first president), Charles Lugo, Rusty Kostick, Esther Tarn, and a host of others who have taken leadership roles over the years. Their motivation and selfless gifts of time and energy continues to preserve the incredible story of people who brought Culver City, the Heart of Screenland to life and renewal.

Volunteering generally brings good feelings from our work. One of my early experiences in the Historical Society, which encouraged me, started with a call from a gentleman who found an oversized “book of clippings” about a man named Harry H. Culver! The church, where it had been found, wanted to return it to its rightful owner. My husband was happy to take it on as a “family adventure” so we picked it up miles away. It was, as we hoped, the big book of clippings on our city founder.  Harry Culver’s daughter, Patricia Culver Battle, spoke of it as one of her family’s treasures, the book that had a special place in their Wallace Neff-designed mansion in Cheviot Hills. Sadly, it had been stolen and was never recovered.

That day trip out to the Inland Empire yielded gold! It was just as Pat described it, a huge book which recorded the Culver family’s incredible year, flying across the country so Harry H. Culver could personally, as president of a national real estate association, deliver his message of the importance of responsible real estate development.

The Society board decided to keep this secret, until Patricia Culver Battle could attend a meeting or event. Our expectation was that she would take it home to keep it safe for posterity. The evening arrived and yes, it was a teary surprise, and when we “unveiled it,” Pat was absolutely delighted!

We were prepared to place the amazing record of Mr. Culver’s productive year as president of that professional group, in Pat’s car after the meeting. The grown up “little girl who so admired her father” turned the table on us. She wanted it to be a part of the collection of the Culver City Historical Society. And so it is. You can see the huge copies of pages in the Society’s Archives and Resource Center thanks to our city founder’s kind and giving daughter. We will make sure you get a glimpse during the Centennial!

 

Friends, thank you for all you do!

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Our Equine Past

Amidst today’s hustle, bustle, and gridlock, it is nice to think back to a time before cars, when there were clopping hooves instead of purring engines, and the only horns were for music, or a bugle’s call.

Harry H. Culver at the Pacific Military Academy he founded in 1922

 

Reveille would have been the morning clarion call at Camp Latham, the Civil War encampment near Overland and Jefferson where 2,000 soldiers and probably horses were stationed between 1861-1862.

But it was the Spanish missionaries (whose route El Camino Real is now marked with bells like the one found in the median at Sepulveda and Jefferson by Petco) that brought horses to Southern California, beginning with the Portolá expedition of 1769. Breeds such as the Chilean Criollo, Puerto Rican Paso Fino, and American Paso Fino begat the California Vaquero horse, and vaquero horseman culture, which was the beginning of the American working cowboy.

1819 saw our area’s most important equestrian event when Agustín Machado, following California use permit law, rode as far and wide as he and his horse could manage from sunup to sundown, claiming what was to be known as Rancho La Ballona.

Machado was famous as a horseman, for horse-trading, and grand fiestas for each family wedding and each birth of his 15 grandchildren, which always included horseracing and rodeos. The latter tradition may be the reason we have Rodeo Road (soon to be renamed Obama Boulevard), which begins in Culver City.

In 1922 Harry Culver founded the Pacific Military Academy. First located on Washington Boulevard and later moved to Cheviot Hills, it is where Harry taught his daughter Patricia how to ride sidesaddle, and it is also where the photo here of Culver on horseback was taken.

Besides transportation and military use, horses have always been used for sport and gambling, and Culver City was not immune. The city’s horse racing track opened in 1923, but by December 1924 it was replaced by “Los Angeles Speedway.” Eventually the infield became Carlson Park.

Horses were a huge part of Culver City’s movie history, from Thomas Ince’s silent Westerns to Gone With The Wind’s carriage and warhorses. During the 1930s-50s Charlie Flores was the livery stable owner who leant his horses to MGM productions.

In the 1950s, during the early days of Fiesta La Ballona, descendants of Culver City’s first families paraded on horseback. This tradition remains to some degree with the pony rides at the current day Fiesta.

Today, horse property in the Los Angeles area is few, far between, and disappearing fast. One day when the oil in Baldwin Hills dries up, that land should by all rights become a park. Perhaps with public stables named after Charlie Flores, and riding trails named after Agustín Machado.

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October 18 General Meeting and Program

In Search of Family History with Steven Rose

Multipurpose Room, Veterans Memorial Building, 7PM

Steven Rose (Culver City Chamber of Commerce)

 

If you have not already heard, Steven Rose is retiring as President/CEO of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce. What will he do with his free time?

At our next general meeting, Steve will explain his plans to dive deep into his family history, which is splintered among many generations and family trees and branches.  All four lines of his family are believed to have roots in Germany, where family records have been kept for centuries.  Steve will outline his plans for tracing his genealogy, how and what he has gathered so far, and share poignant anecdotes of his family’s journey over the last three centuries.

Many branches of his family immigrated to America in the 19th century, settling in northern or southern California as well on the east coast. They were involved in many aspects of the development of early California. Along the way, Steve has acquired many stories, fact and fiction, both here and in Germany, and looks forward to discovering more.

The public is invited to this free program. The entrance to the ARC is from the back parking lot.

The Archives will be open that evening for you to come and see the latest exhibits.

The branch of Steve’s maternal grandmother’s side of the family.

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