Notes From Your City Historian: Summer 2016

Think Fabric!  Think Conservation!

There is no doubt that Culver City has an interesting history! We receive inquiries continuously asking about people, places and things. Did you know that one of the most appreciated areas of our collection is often made of fabric? Yes, first, you probably think of the MGM costume collection for which we are caretaker—but the subject is limitless.

Sharon Shore, who just completed her term as our Costumes Chair, and continues to serve on the committee, offers a broader perspective on the reality that many of our fondest possessions as well as memories involve fabric. This could take the form of a quilt made by someone special, a piece of clothing created for an occasion, a unique pillow made from a grandpa’s ties, an apron constructed to be beautiful and utilitarian, and so much more!

We look for fabrics and patterns to suit our taste, for our draperies, bedspreads, furniture, carpets and beyond. We make time to visit museums like LACMA, the Getty, the Huntington, or Hearst Castle whose collections make us delight in artfully constructed tapestries, costumes, and historic clothing.

Sharon Shore, Director and Conservator of Caring for Textiles, a laboratory for textile conservation, maintains her private practice in Culver City.  She is an amazing resource to our Culver City Historical Society.  We benefit from her skills and mentorship. Sharon recently completed the book of research information on our costume collection. In addition, because of public interest, she and other members of her team constructed a book of the 60+ MGM Costumes. It contains photos with descriptions of each costume for public view.  It is readily available for research and general interest in the Archives.

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection.   The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection. The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Watch for an opportunity in the near future to talk to Sharon in one of our “Conversations” series on special interests, like Costumes and Fabric Conservation!

Here are a few quotes to reiterate the importance of “fabric”:

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” (Margaret Mead)

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” (Walter Benjamin)

“When the fabric of the universe becomes unknown, it is the duty of the university to produce weavers.” (Gordon Gee)

“If I want to calm down, I’ll buy some fabric, get a pattern, shut myself in a room and stay there for days, really happy. And at the end of it, you get a bedspread or some curtains or something to wear – it’s lovely.” (Twiggy)

Many of Culver City’s historic sites are featured on our fabric “throw” available through our onsite and online shops.

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Notes From Your City Historian: Spring 2016


The festive marking of the site of La Ballona School, now in its third structure. Did you know that La Ballona just celebrated its 150th anniversary?

The first “historic marker” to commemorate a historic site in Culver City, was placed on the colonnade entry of Thomas Ince’s first studio (now Sony Pictures) by the Native Daughters of the Golden West.  Our own Clarita Marquez Young was a part of that, years before our historical society was established. The next marking took place in Victory, now Dr. Paul Carlson Park, a Culver City Chamber of Commerce action to commemorate the Early Settler Families.

Our society’s marking process calls for identification of historic sites or structures  in Culver City that are at least fifty years old.  The society’s bylaws recognizes a Historic Sites Committee, which submits sites, with justification, to the board for action, with approval by the property owner for placement and wording for a bronze plaque.  Some are placed on a building, while others are mounted in concrete.  The committee orders the marker, within the funds budgeted.  Cost is a function of the size and number of words. From the beginning, our historical society used the opportunity to tell the story of the site.

After our society formed, Charles R. Lugo served as the first historic sites chair.  At that time, the city did not have an historic preservation ordinance, so it was a new venture for all of us.

The Historic Sites Committee plans the unveiling of the marker while the plaque is in production.  Invitations and publicity are sent by the society.  The program is a cooperative effort of the society and property owner.  Although the event itself is a festive occasion, the goal of preserving local history is met over time.

With the upcoming celebration of our city’s centennial year, we are looking for suggestions for a centennial marking, and members to serve on the committee.

To learn more about each site already marked, you can search here.  This is a list of sites we have marked to date:

#1   City Hall

#2   The Hull Building

#3   St. Augustine Church

#4   The Citizen Building

#5    The Legion Building

#6    Main Street

 #7   Ince Studio#2

#8    Lugo Ranch

#9    The Helms Building

#10  La Ballona School

#11  Camp Latham

#12  Culver City’s first park (Carlson)

#13  Veterans Memorial Building

To learn more about the sites marked, volunteer for the Historic Sites committee or offer a suggestion for a Centennial marking, please contact the society!

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Notes From Your City Historian: Fall 2015

Your Archives At Work

by Julie Lugo Cerra

Our historical society fields some interesting calls and emails and these two are worth sharing!

In July, an inquiry came in from a woman afar looking for information about a 1920s restaurant called “The Ham Tree Inn,” at 6139 Washington Boulevard. Her grandmother worked there as a waitress when it re-opened in the late 1920s. She had biPage 3 F153 HamTreemenuts and pieces of information and a few photos including one that pictured the building with its “Ham Tree” in front. A second inquiry came in the same week from a long time Fay Avenue resident. Her mother also worked at “The Ham Tree Inn” and across the street at Chris’s Market.

Historic Sites Chair, Jeanne Conklin, went to work! She spread the word, and we used local directories, which provide listings by street address as well…but we did not have access to one for that period. There were other complications. Some street addresses changed over the years, just like Main Street carried numbers in the 7000s early on—only to become the 3000s in more recent times. No luck on the first address.

We used our ties with the city to check old files. People talked to people. Using the photo sent by the the woman, Jeanne and Tami Eskridge (another CCHistorical Society officer and super volunteer, who you have probably seen taking their morning walks Page 3 F15n waitressaround our fair city) headed east one day and kept searching. In the meantime, we learned it was near Fay Avenue across from Chris’s Market, which is still there. The answer was getting closer.

We cruised neighborhoods, and found a building on the 8000 block of Washington Boulevard at Fay. It looked SO familiar-for good reason. Ten years ago, our Culver City Historical Society celebrated its 25th year with a historic car rally that ended at that vintage Culver City night spot. Today, it has a different name, but THAT WAS IT!!! Needless to say, there were some rewarding ties formed between the inquirers and those who helped solve this mystery! And your society is the beneficiary of some added information and vintage photos.

The Ham Tree Inn structure is still standing at 8641 W. Washington Boulevard and is now El Baron RePage 3 Hamtreestaurant & Night Club.

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Notes From Your City Historian: Summer 2015

An Independence Day Treat from the Archives

by Julie Lugo Cerra

It seems like most Culver City natives have a story to tell about “going to the movies.” After all, when you grow up in the “Heart of Screenland,” not only were movies made in our studios and on city streets, but we viewed them in local theatres. Our first movie house was on the Culver Hotel site. Initially, that two-story building housed the theatre on the first floor, with city offices above.

SumN Meralta Owners p.3

Over time, your historical society has been able to “flesh out” some little known history. For example, the initial movie house was run by Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta, ladies with a history in vaudeville. When the t

heatre was earmarked for demolition to make way for Culver’s landmark hotel, the owners decided to move down the street and build their own theatre. And yes, you guessed it–they combin

ed their names to call it the “Meralta!” Will Rogers agreed to be the opening act in 1922. The theatre thrived until WWII, when a fire destroyed it. This was especially sad since the owners lived in the upper level apartment, where they could watch the movies. At the time, there was a wartime moratorium on building, but our city found an interim space on the second floor of the 1928 city hall, (where our new city hall stands today).

We had the privilege of interviewing Laura Peralta’s niece who gave us more information. And with the internet, we have been provided with gifts that further tell our stories. There are few photos of the owners, but we know Pearl Merrill served on the Board of Education, while Laura Peralta became active in the Culver City Woman’s Club. The invitation to the 1945 re-opening of the Meralta offers a sketch of each of the owners and a heart-felt welcome back as shown, (courtesy Wm. Barnett). The small print reads:

“Out of the ashes of the old Meralta, a more beautiful theatre has arisen. We proudly dedicate it to you, the people of the community.
In these days of world weariness we strive to raise the morale of our Americans, not in order to forget our duties to our country but rather to inspire grateful realization of the wonders of this land and the purpose for which our boys have left their homes.
We are proud that in these troublous times we are again able to fill a need in this community of which we have been a part for twenty-six years. To all those associated in our endeavors we are happy once more to greet you and to our new friends we welcome you and heartily solicit your patronage. It will be our policy to offer the best in entertainment for all~particularly the children who need special guidance through the post-war period.
We wish you to feel that this is your theatre, dedicated to your enjoyment, recreation and entertainment.”

This seemed fitting to share as we get ready to celebrate Independence Day!

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Notes from From your City Historian: Spring 2015

Notes from From your City Historian

by Julie Lugo Cerra

Culver City’s upcoming Centennial (2017) offers a little time to delve back into our city history. We are fortunate to have access to some incredible documents, ads, and family history on Harry H. Culver, our city founder. Culver, who was born in Milford, Nebraska in 1880, took a circuitous route to California in 1910. The Society regularly displays local memorabilia, including a book of Culver’s original ads dating back to 1913 and pages from the 1929 scrapbook of his active travels across the USA as president of the National Real Estate Association. These are amazing glimpses back into time!

Wallace Neff designed home for Harry Culver and family.
Culver’s study of the land pointed to the advantages of this chosen location, destined to become Culver City. He referred to it as “The Home City.” The early “Culverites” had housing choices, with work opportunities –an early Culver “economic development” tool. In the ad pictured, the home was actually a sketch of Culver’s first house for his little family- he and his wife, Lillian, and their daughter, Patricia. The house was originally built on Delmas Terrace, a street in Culver City’s downtown area, named for Delphin Delmas, one of Culver’s business associates.

Culver grandson, John Battle with his wife Tammie and children in front of the Delmas Terrace home that was moved to and remains in Cheviot Hills.A young architect, Wallace Neff, was Culver’s choice to design his Cheviot Hills mansion. Harry Culver had their Delmas Terrace home moved to the new location, to oversee the construction of their new 1928 residence. Neff convinced Culver to build a Spanish style home, which is featured in books on Neff. The young Neff, destined to become a famous architect, went on to design for many familiar names, like Darryl Zanuck, Harpo Marx, King Vidor, Groucho Marx……

Our historical society has amassed a wealth of Culver information from many sources, starting with Pat Culver Battle, the Culvers’ only child, through her two sons, John and Chris and grandson, Robert, who has become the family historian/genealogist. Please stop in to enjoy our remarkable collection.

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