Collecting, preserving and exhibiting the history of Culver City and its cultural and civic accomplishments

Culver City History

The Creation of Culver City High School and Its First Graduating Class ’53

Culver City High School - Culver City Historical SocietyCan it be 60 plus years since the first class graduated from Culver City High School in 1953? Yes, the class often called “the first class in and the first class out” is the topic for the next general meeting of the Culver City Historical Society on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 7pm in the Rotunda Room at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Ave. in Culver City.

Culver City High School - Culver City Historical SocietyA trip down memory lane to the early 1950s in a PowerPoint presentation will illustrate the creation of Culver City High School and how the course was set for it to become one of the foremost schools in the area. There also will be a panel featuring former teachers and administrators from those early times, which will be moderated by Drayton Marsh ’53, who will also describe the beginning of the sports program.

The panel includes:

  • Hank Blunt, teacher at the high school from 1951-1986
  • Dorothy Boyd, office administrator during the 1960s
  • BetteLyle Westbrook, teacher from 1954-1979
  • Robert Johnson, teacher, 1953-1987
  • Dylan Farris, currently principal of Culver City High School

Culver City High School - Culver City Historical SocietyDennis Parish, vice president of programs for the Society, will explain how earlier classes were required to go to Hamilton High as there was no high school in Culver City. The Culver Junior High school class of 1949 went on to create the senior high school one grade at a time until it became the first graduating class in 1953.

Alums and former teachers from that era have been invited to attend and add comments.

All members of the Culver City Historical Society and the public are welcome to enjoy this free program and students are encouraged to attend. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

For more information, please call the Society at (310) 253-6941 or inquire by e-mail at info@CulverCityHistoricalSociety.org.

Culver City High School - Culver City Historical Society


Julie Lugo Cerra to Lead Genealogy Garage Workshop

genealogy-garageFrom the Genealogy Garage press release:

If you are not acquainted with the historical society in your family’s hometown, then you are missing out on some valuable information—especially since all towns are proud of their heritage. Some societies have a museum, photograph files, a database, and are repositories for the town’s oldest records. Others are a website with historical information and lists of cemeteries, churches, etc. All are maintained by members of the community whose goal it is to preserve their town’s history and they are often thrilled to answer your questions.

Your workshop leader will be Julie Lugo Cerra, who is a 6th generation Californian, and a descendant of Francisco Salvador Lugo. Julie, a native of Culver City, where her father was born on the Lugo Ranch (more…)


“The Kirk Douglas Theatre and its Metamorphosis” – Program for Next Culver City Historical Society Meeting

Eric Sims, Operations Manager of the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Eric Sims, Operations Manager of the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Eric Sims, Operations Manager of the Kirk Douglas Theatre and President of the Culver City Downtown Business Association will be the featured speaker at the Culver City Historical Society’s general meeting on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building’s Multi-Purpose Room, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City, 90230.

Sims, who is closely involved with the development and programs of the Kirk Douglas Theatre, will describe its metamorphosis from the former Culver Theater, a motion picture house, into today’s beautiful and intimate venue for experimental theatrical productions. He will explain how the theatre was transformed and describe the planning (more…)


New Public Hours for The Society’s Archives and Resource Center

the entrance to the ARC

the entrance to the ARC

The Culver City Historical Society has changed the days of operation of its Archives and Resource Center (ARC), located behind the Veterans Memorial Building at 4117 Overland Avenue in Culver City, from the first and third Saturday of each month to the first and third Sunday of each month, from 1:00 t0 3:00 p.m, or by appointment.

This change goes into effect Sunday, September 1, 2013.

According to Society President Michelle Bernardin, the change of days has been made to give visitors easier access to the ARC and more parking in the surrounding lots. “Sunday is a day when families are looking for places to visit and the ARC offers wonderful displays of  (more…)


Culver City Historical Society Events During the Fiesta La Ballona 2013

A Fiesta La Ballona parade from the 1950s

A Fiesta La Ballona parade from the 1950s

Costume Competition

The Culver City Historical Society is sponsoring a Costume Contest during the Fiesta La Ballona to commemorate Culver City’s early California heritage. The competition, which will be held on Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. near the staging area in Veterans Park, encourages contestants to dress as Native Americans, Spanish colonials, rancheros, or pioneers. Costumes will be judged on authenticity, creativity, and representation of the period, and winners in all divisions will be awarded prizes.

The competition categories include: (more…)


Society to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of Harry Culver’s Dream Speech

harry_culvers_dream_CCHS

On July 22, 1913, Harry H. Culver, then a young real estate developer, made an important announcement at the original California Club in Downtown, Los Angeles.

He presented his vision for a new city before directors, stockholders, and friends of the newly formed Culver Investment Company with such enthusiasm that the enthralled group named it “Culver City” by acclamation. (more…)


Historic Sites / Buildings in Culver City

by Julie Lugo Cerra, City Historian

When the Culver City Historical Society was incorporated in 1980, under founding president Cathy Zermeno, the Society began a program of marking historic sites, the first one being the site of the 1928 City Hall. To qualify, sites must be at least 50 years old with historic significance.

Our first marking, the site of the 1928 City Hall, took place in 1981, ten years prior to the adoption of our city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. Charles Lugo was the first Historic Sites Chair. The markers are traditionally bronze plaques, some mounted in concrete, some (more…)


The Society Celebrates Historic Preservation Month

historic-preservation-monthMay is always a special month for the Culver City Historical Society as it has been designated as the National Historic Preservation Month.

This year’s theme is SEE! SAVE! CELEBRATE!

What does this mean to Culver City?

At the May 14, 2013 Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission meeting, City Historian Julie Lugo Cerra will offer an illustrative PowerPoint presentation focusing on Culver City’s distinctive historic structures and local efforts in historic preservation. Issues like “Does Historic Preservation Pay?” and “How can we achieve our goals in these difficult economic times?” will offer opportunity for discussion.

The meeting commences at 7:00 p.m. in the Mike Balkman Council Chambers and can be viewed on CulverCity.org or local access television.

Julie will also be presenting the presentation the day before at the City Council meeting. Please come if you can.

For more information, please call the Society at (310) 253-6941 or e-mail us.


Society to Feature John Jackson, Owner-Manager of the Culver Ice Arena

CC-ice-arenaThe Culver City Historical Society is pleased to announce that John Jackson, the owner and manager of the Culver Ice Arena since 1982, will be the featured speaker at the Society’s general meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building’s Multi-Purpose Room, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City, 90230.

In addition to discussing how the ice arena was created and how hockey and figure skating training developed there, Jackson will share stories about Wayne Gretsky, Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan, and the many local skaters who learned or honed their skills at the facility.

john-jackson2Jackson (pictured, right) is a former Marine Captain and a former football coach at USC, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and the University of Illinois. He is also the owner/promoter of Forum Boxing. In addition, he served as assistant to Jerry Buss, the former owner of the Lakers Basketball team and the Kings Hockey team.

Several former local Olympians and professional skating stars drawn from the teaching staff at the Ice Arena will be on hand and will share their early experiences as skaters in Culver City, including Cathy Machado (first U.S. Latina Olympian, Olympic medalist, World Professional Ice Skating Champion, U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame); Josselyn Baumgartner (Double National Medalist in figure skating); and Crystalrose Guerra (five-time National Showcase Champion).

Kathy Machado

See videos of Machado (pictured, left) and Guerra below.

There will be a brief discussion of upcoming programs and projects, as well as updates on the activities and exhibits in the Archives & Resource Center (ARC), and the Center will be opened following the meeting.

All members of the Culver City Historical Society and the public are welcome to enjoy this free program and students are encouraged to attend. The entrance to the Multi-Purpose Room is through the back of the building near the parking lot, as well as through the Archive & Resource Center space.

For more information, please call the Society at (310) 253-6941 or e-mail us.


The Historic Culver City Racing Scene

by Kevin Triplett

Author’s note: For the past six months, the author spent his workweek in the west Los Angeles suburb of Culver City, which led him to research the rich racing history of the community.

the Culver City racing track at Lincoln & Washington boulevards

the Culver City racing track at Lincoln & Washington boulevards

Certain areas of the country have always been automobile racing “hot spots,” such as the pre-war “Gasoline Alley” in Paterson, New Jersey and Speedway, Indiana. Southern California has always been associated with hot rods and auto racing, but this article focuses on one small community – Culver City, which in its 96-year history, hosted two race tracks, numerous racing-related businesses, and is the hometown of an infamous Indy Car driver. The hope was to visit the historic sites, although as author Judith Freeman has pointed out that the Los Angeles area is an area “of architectural disposability…with buildings torn down, replaced by something else.”

In the late 1920s Culver City became the home of its first of two race tracks after the demise of the Beverly Hills board track, built in 1919. Largely funded by Cliff Durant, (more…)


CCHS to Host Brian Taves, Author of Thomas Ince Biography

A “Meet and Greet” with author Brian Taves, film archivist with the Library of Congress since 1990, will be hosted by the Culver City Historical Society on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in the Archives and Resource Center (ARC).

Taves’ book, Thomas Ince: Hollywood’s Independent Pioneer, the first ever written about Ince’s life, describes how he revolutionized the motion picture industry through developing the role of the producer. Taves will show a DVD of a tour of the former Thomas Ince Studios (now Culver Studios), will describe the writing of this work, and will sign books (which are available in book stores) for those who (more…)


Celebrating CC’s 95th Anniversary

Ms. O’Brien with CC Mayor Andy Weissman

The Culver City Historical Society presented “Meet Me in Culver City,” a celebration to honor Culver City’s 95th Anniversary, on Sunday, September 23, 2012, at the historic Culver Hotel.

Margaret O’Brien, Oscar-winning icon from MGM, served as Honorary Chair of the event and was honored with a commendation from the Culver City Council.

Miss O’Brien was the biggest child star throughout the 1940s and a number one box office attraction. Her unforgettable performance as Tootie Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis (MGM, 1944) with Judy Garland as her co-star, earned her an Academy Award and the position of the highest paid entertainer in the nation.

(more…)


CCHS to Feature Ballona Creek Renaissance President

Jim Lamm (center) with volunteers

The Culver City Historical Society (CCHS) will feature Jim Lamm, president of the Ballona Creek Renaissance (BCR) at its general meeting on Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building’s Multi-Purpose Room, located at 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City, 90230.

Lamm will narrate a virtual tour of the creek in his presentation, “Connecting Creek and Community, Ballona Creek and its Watershed — Past, Present and Future,” a multifaceted story about people, places, and processes (more…)


Margaret O’Brien is Honorary Event Chair for “Meet Me In Culver City” Event

The Culver City Historical Society will present “Meet Me In Culver City,” a celebration to honor Culver City’s 95th anniversary, on Sunday, September 23, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Historic Culver Hotel, 9400 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, 90232.

Margaret O’Brien, legendary Oscar-winning icon from MGM, is serving as Honorary Chair of the event and will be honored with a commendation from the Culver City (more…)


CCHS To Host Noted Anthropologist at Special Meeting

The Culver City Historical Society will host noted anthropologist and archeologist Dr. Charles Rozaire at a special meeting on Saturday, August 18, 2012, in the society’s Archive and Resource Center (ARC) from 1-3 p.m.

Dr. Rozaire grew up in Culver City, attended Culver City Grammar School, and received his BA, MA and PhD at UCLA. He will share his perspective on Native Americans and the early history of the  (more…)


Join CCHS in Celebrating City Tavern’s One Year Anniversary!

Be a part of Culver City history and join us this Tuesday, April 3, 2012 for a very special evening as City Tavern celebrates the 1st of many anniversary parties to come while benefitting the Culver City Historical Society!

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – by invitation
passed appetizers & cocktails hosted by City Tavern

7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – open to public
full dinenr, drinks, music & mingling

10:00 p.m. to close – under 10 after 10 party
$9 craft cocktails after 10:00 p.m. with music by DJ Anthony

Click here to RSVP for the private invite-only party! – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Call (310) 838-9739 to make a dinner reservation – 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


Veterans Memorial Building Will Become Historic Site #13

Veterans Memorial Building in the 1950s when the Tower Restaurant was in operation

The Culver City Historical Society (CCHS) will designate the Veterans Memorial Building as Historic Site #13 at 10 a.m. 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 will be unveiled that morning 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.

(more…)


History of Culver City Police Department at CCHS Meeting

The Culver City Police Department when it was located in the 1928 Culver City Hall at Culver Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue. (Photo circa 1950)

The Culver City Police Department’s (CCPD) Public Information Officer, Lieutenant Ronald Iizuka is the featured speaker at the Culver City Historical Society’s general meeting on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building’s Multipurpose Room, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City, 90230.

(more…)


Flashback Friday: The Hull Building

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Courtesy The Freeman Collection

In 1925, Dr. Foster Hull, the city’s second health officer (after Dr. W.S. Mortensen), built Culver City’s first hospital. The Hull Building, where it was located, still stands at 9543 Culver Boulevard, where it meets Watseka Avenue in downtown Culver City.

Louis Freeman, the owner of nearby Freeman’s Grocery Store bought the Hull Building in the 1930s, and today it is home to Akasha Restaurant.

The Hull Building was designated ‘Historic Site No. 2’ by the Culver City Historical Society in 1991.

(more…)


Free Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Screening September 17

Made in Culver City, a free film program presented by the City of Culver City, will feature Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Spencer Tracy on September 17, 2011 at 7:30pm in Culver City’s City Hall Courtyard.

Culver City City Hall is located at 9770 Culver Boulevard and parking and dining are available in Downtown Culver City.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was directed by Victor Fleming and also stars Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. The film was based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of a 19th century scientist’s investigation into the nature of good and evil. This 1941 film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was set in London but filmed entirely in Culver City at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the film’s release and the 94th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Culver City. Special permission for the screening has been provided by Warner Bros. Classics. (more…)


Don’t Miss: A “Doozy” of A Do

The Culver City Historical Society (CCHS) will present a celebration of the city’s 94-year history that promises to be a real doozy at the newly-renovated Historic Culver Hotel at 9400 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, on Sunday, September 18, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Festivities will include music and dancing to the music of “Doozy,” a band specializing in “prohibition pop, depression era tunes, and retro-originals” every Thursday evening at the Culver Hotel; bountiful arrays of appetizers and desserts; a raffle and auction; silent movies; historic Culver City cocktails at a no host bar, and many more surprises.

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Don’t miss the Fiesta La Ballona this weekend; ARC open Sat. & Sun.

Photo Courtesy CCHS Collection

This weekend, August 26, 27, & 28, come out and celebrate Culver City’s annual Fiesta La Ballona. Browse through the booths, taste the food, hang out in the beer garden, listen to the bands, watch the presentations, go on the carnival rides, and have some fun!

Also come by and check out the Archives & Resource Center (ARC), which will be open both Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.

“Fiesta La Ballona Days” began in 1951 as a week-long celebration of the region’s early settlers. People went to events — and even to work — dressed up as Native American Indians, rancheros, señoritas, cowboys, and cowgirls. The early fiestas evoked pride among the descendants of the “first families” and offered the entire community a playful opportunity to connect with its history.

Suggested reading: Early Fiestas: Recollections by Julie Lugo Cerra

Fiesta information via Fiesta La Ballona


Flashback Friday: City Hall

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Photo Courtesy CCHS Collection

Culver City’s City Hall – located at 9770 Culver Boulevard – was dedicated in 1928.

The building was demolished in the early 1990s to make way for the new Civic Center, and the current façade [see photo after the jump] is a reconstruction of the 1928 original. The facade opens onto Heritage Park, which occupies the old City Hall footprint.

Culver City City Hall was designated Historic Site No. 1 by the Culver City Historical Society in 1991.

(more…)


News from the Costume Chair

CCHS_hedy_lamar

by Louise Coffey-Webb
Costume Committee Chair

The Annual Costume Society of America Symposium

I have just returned from rainstorms in Boston where I was attending the annual Costume Society of America Symposium. I presented a lecture on Ganna Walska, a well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, whose designer of choice was the legendary Erté – famous for his Art Deco sinewy figures and fantastical ornaments.

(more…)


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