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The City's Founder, Harry Hazel Culver


Harry H. Culver is on the left surveying development plans
Harry H. Culver is on the left surveying development plans


Harry H. Culver was born in Milford, Nebraska in 1880. He was the middle child of five, raised with three brothers and a sister on the family farm. Their father was a National Guard Brigadier General and strict disciplinarian, descended from Englishman Edward Colver, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635.

Taking the lead from his father, Culver enlisted in the Spanish-American War. Although underage, he worked his way from trumpeter to sergeant. After a year at Doane College, he spent three years at the University of Nebraska. He financed his education through assorted jobs, including taking in laundry, and going into the bottled water business with his father.

Culver traveled to the Philippines in 1901 where he went into the mercantile business. He also became a reporter for the Manila Times. His next job was a three and a half-year stint as a special agent in the Customs department. He returned stateside to Customs special duty in St. Louis and Detroit, but resigned in 1910 to move to California.

In Southern California, Culver took a job with I. N. Van Nuys in real estate. As the story goes, after Van Nuys offered to make him a manager, he went out on his own. After intense study, Culver pinpointed this area for a city- between the pueblo of Los Angeles and Abbot Kinney's resort of Venice- and announced plans at the California Club in Los Angeles in 1913. He formed the Culver Investment Company, located his office on Main Street, and when local voters rejected annexation to Los Angeles in 1914, he worked toward his goal of a balanced residential/commercial community.

Click here to read Harry Culver's speech from 1913

After he watched Thomas Ince film a western on Ballona Creek, he convinced Ince to move his Inceville Studios from the beach to Washington Boulevard. The landmark colonnade on Washington Boulevard was built in 1915, and Culver City, incorporated in 1917, was quickly becoming "The Heart of Screenland."

Lillian and Harry


Driving along Media Park in his Pierce Arrow, Harry Culver saw a striking young woman in a yellow suit and straw hat. The lovely woman was Lillian Roberts waiting for the Venice Short Line. Inquiring who she was, his chauffeur offered that "she may be one of the new people." Culver's daughter, Pat, shared the story of their meeting. Culver spoke to the wife of a prominent doctor, who agreed to give a party for the "newcomers" in town. Knowing that Lillian Roberts was "well brought-up," she asked Mrs. Roberts if she and Dr. Jones could take Lillian to a party. Harry Culver drove to the party at the shore, with the Dr. and Mrs. Jones in the back seat. Miss Roberts rode in the front seat with him, and as Pat said, " the die was cast." Harry Culver married the young actress, Lillian Roberts, in June, 1916, and in August, 1917, Dr. Jones delivered their only child, Patricia Culver.

Harry with his daughter Pat Culver


Harry Culver was well known for his innovative style. He brought busloads to free picnics, awarded a lot to the parents of the prettiest baby, put ads in the newspapers that read: "All roads lead to Culver City," held marathons and other special events. His large sales force was located on Main Street, and then in the Hotel Hunt (now Culver Hotel) after he built it in 1924. He was active in the community in its early years, even serving in elected office.

Culver built a family home on Delmas Terrace, but moved it to Cheviot Hills to oversee construction of their mansion designed by Wallace Neff. A new cook had to be able to make three things, according to his daughter: "apple pie, soufflé, and beige bacon crisp."

Pacific Military Academy


Culver donated the first acreage for Loyola University. He founded the nearby Pacific Military Academy in honor of his father (click here to read more on the academy). Pat Culver kept a horse there, where her father taught her to ride. In 1929, Harry Culver was president of the California and National Real Estate Associations, and the family traveled extensively as Harry gave 600 speeches in a year. Culver enjoyed riding, swimming and playing ice hockey. According to Pat, he called her "Little Darling," and one of his oft-used lines was "We'll talk about it later."

Harry Culver died at 66 in a Hollywood hospital in 1946 after a number of strokes. Mrs. Culver passed away in the year 1999 at the age of 103. Pat Culver Battle continued to visit Culver City, often on the Fiesta weekend until her death at the age of 84 in December 2001.