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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The Culver CityBus Will Celebrate 90 Years

Although Harry Culver’s early ads boasted “All Roads lead to Culver City,” one needed transportation around the town, after arrival.  By the late 1920s, the Evening Star News pointed out a drawback in the system as the “burdensome rates charged by the Pacific Electric.” Mayor Reve Houck, after exploring options, announced that the city, under a provision of the state constitution, could operate its own transportation service! Mayor Houck and the Board of Trustees, recognizing the need for inexpensive public transportation, brought to life the second oldest municipally-owned bus line in the state of California!

Mayor Reve Houck stepping into the Culver City Bus. (Culver City Historical Society Collection)

On March 3, 2018, Culver City will have provided 90 years of continuous bus service to its citizens. According to his daughter, Alene Houck Johnson, Mayor Houck was very concerned that the buses rented might be sabotaged. Legend has it that Houck then financed the first bus. Bus transportation was enthusiastically supported by the community that voted for a bond to finance our own municipal bus line!

 

 

Our Centennial Tap card.

In celebration of our Centennial, your Culver City Historical Society was delighted to work with Culver CityBus by furnishing a choice of vintage photos for a Centennial “bus wrap,” and for their Limited Edition Centennial TAP (transit access pass) card!

 

We have also worked out a free public bus tour for the September 16, 2017, Birthday Party in the Park led by Culver City Historical Society docents you probably know! You might even meet a Culver family descendent on the ride!  We have a history of doing tours with the city for the Fiesta in earlier times.  Check our website for details at www.CulverCityHistoricalSociety.org/bustours or call our information line at (310) 253-6941.

The Centennial Wrap Bus with vintage photos from the Culver City Historical Society (Culver CityBus)

 

 

Today, Culver CityBus boards approximately 5.8 million passengers each year, for safe rides on its fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. In 2012, the City of Culver City was named the 3rd Best Municipal Fleet in North America, out of 38,000 public fleets.

 

 

Question: Do you know why the Culver CityBus logo is so recognizable?

Answer:  The fonts/script came from the lettering on the landmark tower and neon sign of the 1947 Culver Theatre, which is now the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Special thanks to Art Ida and Dia Turner of Culver CityBus for their help.

Join us – be a part of the fun!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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