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

Culver City History

Notes from Your City Historian

by Julie Lugo Cerra

El Marino Students Tour the Past to See the Future

Our children are our future – and how important it is to offer them a window into the past, to help them make grounded future-oriented decisions.


President’s Message

by Stu Freeman

First, let me thank those of you who responded so enthusiastically to my article in our last newsletter.

As you may recall, I requested that if you were doing some “spring cleaning” and happened to find anything that relates to Culver City history, to please consider donating it to the CCHS Archives & Resource Center (ARC).


News from the Costume Chair


by Louise Coffey-Webb
Costume Committee Chair

A Special Guest Visits the ARC: Deborah Landis

I wanted to let you know about some very interesting visitors we had the pleasure of hosting at the ARC at the end of last year.

Deborah Nadoolman Landis, and her assistant, Natasha Rubin, came to look at some of our MGM costumes. Why? Well, Deborah is the Senior Guest Curator of an exhibition at the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London on film costumes in 2012. Entitled “Style and Seduction: The Art of Hollywood Costume Design,” the exhibit is scheduled to open October 20th, 2012, followed by an international tour. There will also be a catalogue. (more…)

Notes from Your City Historian

by Julie Lugo Cerra

Local History Becoming very Popular with All Ages!

There seems to be a lot of interest in local history, which is very encouraging! New businesses even call to learn about the story of their site (often some fun surprises there!)

Children are especially great fun on tours. We are scheduled to work with students from El Marino Language School in 2011 on May 31 and June 3. (more…)

Don’t Miss the General Membership Meeting!

Special Program: “Movie Studios of Culver City”

The Culver City Historical Society’s Spring General Membership Meeting will be held this Wednesday, April 20th at 7:00 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Avenue. Please park and enter from the rear of the building.

Co-authors, Julie Lugo Cerra and Marc Wanamaker will present a Power Point program on their most recent book collaboration, Movie Studios of Culver City, published by Arcadia Publishing in their “Images of America” series. The book includes hundreds of images and descriptions of the motion picture and television studios from 1913, when Harry Culver founded the city and attracted studios to locate there – from the early studios of Thomas Ince and Hal Roach through the huge facilities of MGM, Lorimar, Columbia, DeMille, RKO, Pathe, Desilu and Sony. (more…)

President’s Message: Attention: All Members!

by Stu Freeman

Have you recently cleaned out a closet, an attic or a garage?
Has any of your family or friends?
Did you find something that relates to the history of Culver City and/or your family’s history to the city?

For example:

  • Ticket stubs from the Culver or Meralta theatres
  • Order forms from the Helms Bakery
  • Anything from the MGM, Hal Roach or any other local studios
  • Pictures of local businesses that aren’t here any more
  • Photos of prominent citizens or Culver school teachers

PLEASE! Don’t throw them away!

I am calling on all Culver City-ites, current and past, to do some personal searching through your heritage — because the CC Historical Society can possibly provide a home for these items in our ever-enriching Archives (ARC). Your donations will help to ensure that your children and grandchildren will always have a place to view the items that their family has donated in their family name.

There is but one caveat and that is, due to the current limitations of space at the Archives, we have a process whereby the Board must approve of any donations before we can accept them. You may find some unexpected treasures!

It should prove to be fun for everyone!

Sony Pictures Donation Kicks Off Free Screenings with Easter Parade on April 16, 2011


A warm and hearty thanks goes out to our friends at Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) for their generous donation of a new 40” flat screen Sony Bravia Television and a Blu-ray/DVD player to the Archives & Resource Center (ARC).

Not only has SPE, which came to Culver City in January of 1990, taken historic preservation seriously (they returned Thomas Ince’s first movie lot in Culver City to a state-of-the-art entertainment facility and have two city-designated Landmark structures and several Significant structures), they’ve proven to be a wonderful corporate citizen as well. Sony adopted the Culver City Unified School District in 1991 and has been instrumental in the success of the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. (more…)

Culver City Historian and Film Industry Expert To Present New Book: Movie Studios of Culver City

Julie Lugo Cerra, official Culver City historian, and Marc Wanamaker, noted film industry author and consultant, will present images and commentary based on their recently published book, Movie Studios of Culver City at the Culver City Historical Society’s general meeting Wednesday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City.


Profile: The Wende Museum


In the early 1990s, the Cold War came to a dramatic end. Since then, historical landmarks have been torn down, statues have been vandalized and documents have been destroyed throughout Eastern Europe.

Founder and Executive Director Justinian Jampol established The Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War as a non-profit organization in 2002. His mission has been dedicated to acquiring, preserving, and offering access to these materials of Cold War-era Eastern Europe, providing a unique way for students, scholars, journalists and political observers to investigate life and culture under communist rule.


News from the Costume Chair


by Louise Coffey-Webb
Costume Committee Chair

A “Golden” Costume on Display

Just in time for the holidays and a glitzy new year, we have a golden costume on display in the Archive Resource Center.

Those of you who saw Visiting… with Huell Howser: Culver City this Fall, may remember when he looked at a sparkling costume as I lifted it out of its archival box. This costume dates back to 1939, a year often considered to be the finest in the golden age of cinema releases.

From Broadway Serenade

The costume pictured here was worn by Virginia Grey as the character Pearl in the black and white musical, Broadway Serenade (1939). It starred Jeanette MacDonald and Lew Ayers (Dr. Kildare), and was directed and produced by Robert Z. Leonard. The art direction was by the famous Cedric Gibbons, and the women’s costumes were designed by Adrian, who designed for the men. Busby Berkeley directed the finale musical number that featured all-female musicians and his usual over-the-top style.

The costume is a floor length coat-dress made entirely of gold lamé, fully lined in turquoise silk, and featuring Adrian’s signature large puffed sleeves, which in this case are quilted in a diamond pattern. The quilting continues in lines over the shoulders and forearms, and the center front features large lamé-covered buttons.

Be sparkly and bright throughout 2011!

Reel Culver City


by Marc Wanamaker

Hal Roach Studios’ “Our Gang” Comedies On Location At Palms Station

Since the founding of Culver City, the motion picture industry, which helped found the small city’s location filmmaking in and around the town, was the closest option for location managers.

The Culver City Pacific Electric Station on Washington Boulevard had been used on-and-off for many years by the nearby studios.


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.


General Membership Meeting – Wednesday, January 19th

The Culver City Historical Society’s Winter General Membership Meeting will be held tomorrow night, Wednesday, January 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Avenue. Please park and enter from the rear of the building.

Justinian Jampol, founder and Executive Director of the Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, will describe the collections and artifacts, the Berlin Wall exhibit, and the goals and purposes of this remarkable Culver City facility established in 2002. The Wende Museum preserves the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy.

The public is invited to enjoy the free program and students are encouraged to attend. The CCHS Archives & Resource Center (ARC) will be briefly opened following the meeting. Light refreshments will be served.

CCHS Will Feature Founder of Local Cold War Museum


Justinian Jampol, Founder and Director of the Culver City based Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, is the featured speaker at the Culver City Historical Society’s general meeting on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room in Veterans Auditorium. The Wende Museum preserves the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and give understanding of that period and its legacy. Jampol will describe the collections and artifacts, the Berlin Wall Display and the purposes and goals of this museum which was established in 2002. More information about this museum can be seen here. (more…)

A Special Message from the Society’s First President


by Cathy Zermeno

I am very proud of how the Culver City Historical Society was officially organized in 1980 and to see how it’s grown into a strong and vital organization, respected by our community and our sister historical societies as well.

It was not an easy task to persuade the City Officials to support us in forming the Society.  There had been some earlier attempts with no success.


Sony Pictures Entertainment Website Earns Prestigious Award


Good news from our friends, and corporate sponsor, Sony Pictures Entertainment:

The Sony Pictures online museum won multiple awards in three prestigious website competitions in 2010. The museum was selected as an Official Honoree for the Movie and Film category in the 14th Annual Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.


An ARC Update

by Winston Gieseke
Vice President, Museum/ARC

2010: Busy & Productive

It has been a busy and productive summer at the Archives & Resource Center (ARC), and an exciting one.

We had a terrific turnout at the museum during the Fiesta La Ballona, and I’d like to thank all of those who were able to stop by and check out our new displays as well as all of the volunteers who donated their time to help keep us open for these additional hours. (more…)

News from the Costume Chair

Merrill Publishing Company, Chicago (1940)

Merrill Publishing Company, Chicago (1940)

by Louise Coffey-Webb
Costume Committee Chair

Preservation imperative for costumes…and people too!

Costumes are similar to people in that, from the moment they are created, they begin to deteriorate! In other words, preservation becomes of vital importance.

Gone With the Wind & The Harry Ransom Center

On that note, a happy story appeared in The Hollywood Reporter on September 2, 2010, stating that fans of Gone With the Wind responded to “an appeal for funds to restore gowns from the 1939 movie meeting its target (of $30,000) in three weeks.” [Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters.] (more…)

Laurel and Hardy On Location In Culver City

In car: Laurel (R) and Hardy (L) with leg in cast on CC location for "County Hospital."

In car: Laurel (R) and Hardy (L) with leg in cast on CC location for "County Hospital."

by Marc Wanamaker

Early Filming Used CC as “Background”

Before filmmaking became a big industry in Culver City, early film companies used the area as backgrounds for a variety of geographical areas.

First City & Open Areas, then “Backlots”

When producer/director Thomas Ince first sent a unit to the Culver City area around 1913, they used the La Ballona Creek as a location. Others used the open fields and hills for various settings.

By 1920, the newly acquired Thomas Ince/Triangle Studio by the Goldwyn Film Company was expanded to add a backlot with settings that would represent the ‘”world.”

When Ince built a new studio on Washington Blvd. to the east of the first one he built, he added his own backlot. And when famed producer Cecil B. DeMille later took over this Ince Studio, another new backlot was developed, later to be called the “40 Acres,” situated at the end of what is now Ince Boulevard, along the La Ballona Creek.


A Word from Our President

by Stu Freeman

In our last newsletter, I mentioned that we have acquired many of the wonderful Our Gang comedies as well as numerous Laurel & Hardy comedies on DVDs for screening at the CCHS Archives & Research Center. We have now added another 80 Our Gang DVDs and we are presently trying to obtain the entire Laurel & Hardy collection. You owe it to yourselves to come by the Archives and enjoy these wonderful, timeless comedies.


CC High School Senior Creates Film About Culver City History

Katherine Maxwell

Katherine Maxwell

Are you interested in the history of Culver City? Do you wonder why our city is called “The Heart of Screenland”?

Come to a special film screening of “History is Gold: An Oral History of Culver City” on Saturday, October 9, in the Culver City Historical Society’s Archive and Resource Center (ARC) in the back of the Veterans Memorial Building at 4117 Overland Avenue in Culver City. (more…)

Early Fiestas: Recollections of Julie Lugo Cerra

ClaritaFiesta: Clarita Marquez Young, the Historical Society's "Madrina" continued dressing for the Fiestas into the '80s.  She is flanked here by a Machado and two Lugo descendants, Charles Lugo and Michele Cerra.

Clarita Marquez Young, the Historical Society's "Madrina" continued dressing for the Fiestas into the '80s. She is flanked here by a Machado and two Lugo descendants, Charles Lugo and Michele Cerra.

Fiesta La Ballona Days began in 1951 as a weeklong celebration of local heritage. There was something happening daily during this festive week.

Led by the Chamber of Commerce, activities were patterned to appeal to every sector of the community. They included contests for the Queen and her court, a “little queen with court,” a luncheon, hobby show and even a beard-growing contest for the guys. One day there was an antique car show, too. There were two parades, one down the city streets and one for children at Veterans Memorial Park. Evening events included a square dance, a teen dance and there was also a barbecue one night. The Aquacade in the “new” plunge (1950) drew a crowd to a show of synchronized swimming interspersed with clowning antics under the stars.


Original Fiesta gown on display


by Louise Coffey-Webb
Costume Committee Chair

In celebration of next week’s 49th anniversary of the Fiesta La Ballona, we are displaying an original “Queen’s” gown from the 1951 Fiesta in the Culver City Archives & Resource Center (ARC). This white satin dress with lace-covered bodice and coordinating mantilla was designed and constructed by Rosalie Utterback [sic] who later headed up the Fashion Design Department at Woodbury University.


REEL Culver City: Culver Center, 1961

Culver Center Street as “decorated” for the MGM film “Ada,” which was set in the late 1940s

Culver Center Street as “decorated” for the MGM film “Ada,” which was set in the late 1940s

by Marc Wanamaker

Culver Center Street turned back to 1940s

MGM Studios used the Culver Center shopping district for the political drama, Ada, starring Dean Martin as gubernatorial candidate “Bo Gillis” and Susan Hayward as his supportive wife, “Ada.”

Although the film took place in a small town in the Deep South in the late 1940s (and was loosely based on two-term Louisiana governor, Jimmie Davis), sharp-eyed readers will notice the tell-tale L.A.-based signage for “Culver Center Drugs” (above the “Bo Gillis” banner and below the “Market Basket” sign in the middle of the above photo).


QR Code Business Card