Marking and Preserving History

First Society historic site marking at City Hall in 1981. Left to right, from back: Councilmembers Richard Alexander, Paul Netzel, and Richard Brundo; Catherine Zermeno, Society president; Councilmember Paul Jacobs; and Charles Lugo, Historic Sites chair. H. Dale Jones, CAO of Culver City, is kneeling on the left. (Julie Lugo Cerra)

When our Culver City Historical Society formed, we knew we all shared an interest in local history and we learned about many options available to preserve that rich history! Charles Lugo chaired our first Historic Sites Committee, and it offered a learning experience for me to work with my dad and our Society “madrina” (godmother), Clarita Marquez Young. Ordering bronze site markers was admittedly a real learning experience!

The Society voted to mark City Hall as our entry experience and as we approached the City, their only concern was set aside since we were marking “sites,” not structures. The City Hall marker remains on the corner of Culver and Duquesne. It tells the story of the site of the 1928 City Hall, which has since been replaced. In some instances, like the Hull Building, site #2, the marker is in plain view on the structure. Our choice from the beginning was to provide long-lasting bronze markers that tell the story of the site.

It was many years later before the city formed a Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, made up of a wide-range of organizations and at-large members, which included some of our Society members like Linda Brady, Carolyn Cole, Mary Ellen Fernandez, James Lamm, Judy Potik, Jim Quirarte, and Cathy Zermeno. With the help of a consultant, 30th Street Architects, a historic structures survey report was produced in August 1990.

Another historic benefit to our community was the formation of a Cultural Affairs Commission in 2001. The commission, which included members of the Historical Society, was given the opportunity to combine the programs of Historic Preservation and Art in Public Places. One of the interesting decisions we made when I served on the commission was to recommend changes to the Culver City Municipal Code, one of which allowed “Architecture” in the category of Art in Public Places. Do you know the other Society past president who served on that commission? Michelle Bernardin!

As we enter the New Year, I urge us to work together and make changes that benefit our fine city. One way might be to have your voice heard by city staff who will update our city code with respect to historic preservation. Christine Byers, has shared this upcoming opportunity:

“City staff anticipates placing an item on the City Council meeting agenda in January 2019 relating to the City’s Historic Preservation Program. This agenda item pertains only to updating relevant sections of the Culver City Municipal Code (CCMC), which is the foundation and framework of the Historic Preservation Program. Staff will be seeking direction from the City Council with the intent of making updates to the CCMC so that the program reflects best practices, current priorities of the Culver City community, is better aligned with state and federal guidelines on historical resources, and is more user friendly both for property owners and City staff.”

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“Living History”

Each year, Fiesta La Ballona reminds me of memories that spelled “fun.” I remember how hard our mother worked to outfit my brother, cousin, and me as “Early Settlers.” I liked the “señorita”dresses and learning about my ancestors, except one year when I had to wear a mustache (itchy!), and pull my little brother and cousin in a wagon-based “float”! Little did I know that learning our history then was setting the stage to teach it forward.

Third grade students from La Ballona on a 2018 walking tour. They asked to pose for a photo in front of the Rainbow sculpture at Sony Pictures, part of the Public Art program in Culver City! (Julie Lugo Cerra)

In 2017, our society helped to bring historic sites and people to the forefront for Culver City’s Centennial Celebration. Walking tours, bus tours, and classroom visits for Career Days broadened the story of our city for locals, especially children. Michelle Bernardin and Denice Renteria designed coloring sheets for the students, who learn about local history in third grade.

As Culver City students have just begun the new school year, we look forward to increasing our participation in the area of youth education. Before summer break, our volunteer docents (Fred Alexander, Michael Laase, Michele Lachoff, Denice, and myself) led La Ballona third-graders past many historic sites like Tellefson Park, (former Rollerdrome), on land that was known as Rancho La Ballona. Many were impressed when they learned that our city founder, Harry H. Culver, flew his plane out of the Culver City Airport! El Marino School also participated in their annual bus visit to City Hall and scavenger walk.

Working with our schools is not new. Over the years we have enjoyed taking “Living History”skits into third grade classes, in partnership with AVPA high school students. Watching the high school students take the parts of Machado family members claiming rights to land on “horseback” certainly held their attention! Other skits helped the students learn about Harry Culver, his plans, and his family.

La Ballona Students in the ARC (Michele Cerra Lachoff)

Last year, we renewed our docent-led bus tours. In one day, 200 riders took our tour on the Centennial Culver CityBus. Their “tour” continued after they disembarked and made their way to the ARC for a special visit, which took them past a wonderful piece of public art, Filmstrip USA by Natalie Kroll, in front of the Veterans Memorial Building. They also walked through the building to see some historic movie photos rescued by our society. Their last stop was our Culver City Historical Society Archives and Resource Center, where they were intrigued by Culver Family items and much more! Many were surprised when we pointed out the nearby Mayme Clayton Library and Wende Museum, also located in the Cultural Corridor in our city.

From youngsters to adults, history can be painless education!

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Marking the Rollerdrome Site

Newly built Culver City Rollerdrome

Newly built Culver City Rollerdrome

Located on a portion of Rancho La Ballona, the Rollerdrome was the earliest significant structure on that site. That area had been a part of Culver City’s Annexation #4, known as the 1924 “Bohemia Annexation.” The Rollerdrome, a very popular roller-skating rink, was dedicated in the late 1920s by Mayor Reve Houck. It was a wooden skating rink, equipped with an organ. The space was also used for competitive skating events.

Culver City Rollerdrome patch used on skate case. (CCHS Collection)

Culver City Rollerdrome patch used on skate case. (CCHS Collection)

The Rollerdrome became a well-known recreational facility that appealed to skaters of all ages. Many people, like our own Virgie Eskridge, have shared their memories of time spent at this popular roller skating rink. Virgie remembers Mr. Osterloh, who served as the early organist. Another Society Founder, Ethel Ashby, often spoke of this historic site and its social significance to our community. She liked to point out the “strict dress code” precluded anyone from wearing “blue jeans!” It was a favored place to meet family and friends, celebrate birthdays, or enjoy a date. Skating options like “Regular Skate,” “All Women,” “Couples,” “Solitary” (interpreted as “solo time to show off”), were announced, along with the “All Men” call, which Ethel pointed out “made all men race like a bunch of whippets.

Early map of the area with several important recognizable local sites: Rollerdrome (centered), Kennel  Club, Stern’s Barbecue, Fox Hills Country Club, Loyola University, Sebastian’s Cotton Club, etc.

Early map of the area with several important recognizable local sites: Rollerdrome (centered), Kennel Club, Stern’s Barbecue, Fox Hills Country Club, Loyola University, Sebastian’s Cotton Club, etc.

”When the Rollerdrome was no longer viable as a skating rink, it was razed to make way for another recreational venue, a city park. It was named for Michael Tellefson, who served as a city employee, (Chief Administrative Officer and City Attorney), and as an elected Councilmember and Mayor (1930-34). Many remember Tellefson Park became an official 1976 U.S. Bicentennial dedication. Mike Tellefson advocated for other city-owned facilities, like the Veterans Memorial Building (1950), and he negotiated important contracts, like our sewer contract with Hyperion in 1951. His portrait hangs in the Mike Balkman Council Chambers at City Hall, and a Culver City street is named Tellefson. Mr. Tellefson and his wife lived on Irving Place.

Culver City Mayor Reve Houck, is pictured seated in the light suit during the ceremony to celebrate construction of our historic Rollerdrome in the late 1920s. Houck was also an advocate for Victory Park, Culver City’s first park, and the financing of the first city bus, which led the way to establish Culver City’s bus system, the second oldest in the state.

Culver City Mayor Reve Houck, is pictured seated in the light suit during the ceremony to celebrate construction of our historic Rollerdrome in the late 1920s. Houck was also an advocate for Victory Park, Culver City’s first park, and the financing of the first city bus, which led the way to establish Culver City’s bus system, the second oldest in the state.

We look forward to marking the Rollerdrome site as the Society’s Historic Site #14. Watch for an announcement of the marking date soon!

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3 Reasons Why Culver City Should Be Your Home

One of the great joys of being your city historian is the ability to share items like this vintage pamphlet. Many gifts to the Society bring our history into focus with pictures, which is “painless education” at its best! These scans from an early Culver City Chamber of Commerce brochure offer a look back to the 1928 City Hall, first Fire Station in Downtown Culver City, Culver CityBus, other transportation, Main Street, and a “group of new homes.” It also illustrates the point that our entry to the current City Hall honors the facade of its 1928 predecessor on the same site. We see our Culver City Police Department interacting with children, and we are reminded of the Helms Bakeries history, which included supplying bread to the nearby 1932 Olympic Village. Picnics in Victory Park, now Dr. Paul Carlson Park, are a long-standing tradition. If you can identify the street where the “group of new homes” are show below, please email the Society, to my attention!

Photo credit: Courtesy of Robert Battle, great-grandson of Harry Culver, from the Culver-Battle Collection. (Thank you, as always!)

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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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