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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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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