“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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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!

p-3-cchallhs1mkr

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Historic Site #13 – Veterans Memorial Building

Veterans Memorial Building in the 1950s when the Tower Restaurant was in operation - CulverCityHistoricalSociety.orgThe Culver City Historical Society (CCHS) designated the Veterans Memorial Building as Historic Site #13 at 10am on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

The building, located at Culver Boulevard and Overland Avenue (4117 Overland Avenue), one of the most often-used structures in the city, has had a vibrant history, which is noted on the bronze plaque that is displayed in the front of the building and reads as follows:

Historic Site No. 13:
Veterans Memorial Building (VMB)

Culver City purchased a major portion of this land, known as Exposition Park, in 1938. It was officially designated as Veterans Memorial Park on August 8, 1949. Bond financing of $550,000 guaranteed the construction of the Veterans Memorial Building on the corner. The original plans promised a “recreational building with a stage, restaurant, film museum, playroom, and a large gymnasium.” The “tourist tower” was designed to view “back lot” movie sets at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios across the street. The cornerstone was laid on April 15, 1950. The VMB was dedicated on March 9, 1951, with Goodwin Knight, Lt. Governor at the time, in attendance. The Gold Star Mothers were guests of honor. This structure, designed to serve the entire community, once included a “Tower Restaurant.” The entry proudly exhibits a growing number of markers, placed to honor and remember veterans who served our country, and who fought for our freedom in many wars.

Native Americans traversed this land before it was claimed as a portion of Rancho La Ballona in 1819. The Spanish Period yielded to Mexican control, followed by California Statehood in 1850. This site was part of the original land acquired to incorporate as Culver City in 1917.

The Culver City Historical Society, Fall 2011


The VMB was renovated in 1980. At that time, a number of changes occurred, including the rounding of the Garden Room (formerly the Tower Restaurant) wall for a mural and installation of glass to view the adjacent patio. Most notable from the outside was the placement of a sculpture on the Overland/Culver corner, a stainless steel work by artist Natalie Krol, “Filmstrip USA” dedicated in 1981. Rooms within have been renamed to honor our sister cities.

City dignitaries, city staff, Culver City residents, Historical Society members, Veterans, students and the public were invited to attend the ceremony.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CCHS Works Toward Long-term Historical Preservation

For over thirty years, the Culver City Historical Society has focused on safeguarding the unique heritage of our city through designation of specific Historic Sites as well as collecting, maintaining and displaying our wonderful trove of memorabilia and historic documents.

The Society has long been an advocate for preservation programs and measures to ensure that future generations can continue to learn about and appreciate Culver City’s special history. It now behooves us to ask, “Is Historic Preservation in Culver City on stall?”

The last discussion at the City Council, which had been put off for nearly two years, then another month, is still hanging in the balance. There seems to be concern about doing a new survey, although the Council’s direction to apply for Certified Local Government Status and enable the Mills Act Funding in 1991 has not yet been implemented.

Continue reading

Print Friendly, PDF & Email