Home ArticlesArchives and Resource Center THE IVY SUBSTATION IS 100 YEARS OLD THIS YEAR!


Notes from Your City Historian

by Julie Lugo Cerra


You might remember that a CC Historical Society member – noted railroad historian David Cameron – was the driving force in saving the wonderful Ivy Substation from demolition. The Caltrans plan to widen Venice Boulevard for a 1981 improvement project threatened the historic building, and David submitted the application to place the Ivy Substation on the National Register of Historic Places in order to save it.

Although the Ivy is not actually within our city boundaries, it is clearly the most visible gateway to the city. So, in 1987, the CC Redevelopment Agency entered into a long-term lease with the City of Los Angeles to renovate it and the adjacent Media Park. Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, prepared the design and construction plans. (I am privileged to sit on the Historic State Capitol Commission with Wayne, who now serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer.)

The substation sat next to a little depot – the very spot where city founder Harry Culver first noticed his wife-to-be, actress Lillian Roberts. She was waiting for the Red Car to go shopping in downtown Los Angeles.

The Ivy reopened to a plethora of community events in 1993. The Center Theatre Group transformed it into a performing arts facility, and today, we are pleased that we have our own resident theatre company, The Actors’ Gang at The Ivy Substation. The Ivy is also Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #182.


On November 20, 2007, the Munchkins received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Finally!

Sadly, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce seemed to forget to invite anyone from Culver City, but I went anyway. Doug Newton, Gen. Mgr. of the Culver Hotel (and new CCHS VP, Ways & Means) had earlier called to tell me that seven “munchkins” were in the hotel lobby the week before! I was able to take photos of them back at the hotel, and at the star ceremony when the “horse of a different color (violet)” brought them to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where the Wizard of Oz premiered in 1939.

Happily, NPR newsman Scott Simon made it known that his broadcast which reviewed the event on Saturday, December 8, was coming from Culver City! The “munchkins” were the subject of his interview with me at the Culver Hotel, where he and visiting NPR staff stayed.


While walking my dog around Dr. Paul Carlson Park on a recent Sunday afternoon, I noticed a group of cub scouts sitting on the grass, listening intently to an adult. The Den Mother apparent was holding up a book and telling them about an airport that used to be in Culver City – to which they reacted with interest and surprise. They answered questions, talked about the Culver Hotel, and other notable historic sites.

Of course we stopped and visited for a few minutes, to express pride in their command of local history. They were surprised to learn that I had written the book with the photos of the old buildings!

As I continued my walk, it was with a reinforced smile, reminded that the Society’s future will be in the good hands of upcoming generations. Children naturally enjoy looking back into local history, which is why we need to continue our outreach to youth, through our tours, Living History program and new ideas.

AND … how fitting that the Hull building, our Historic Site #2, is the venue for Stu Freeman’s installation. My dad and Bert Freeman (Stu’s dad) would be proud!

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