The Culver Hotel

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culver hotel resizedHarry Culver's dream city included an economic base designed to balance the residential with commercial. Main Street provided the initial retail and the studios were the early industry. By 1922, the Honers established the first manufacturing plant, Western Stove. It was on Hays Street (now National Boulevard), north of La Ballona Creek, along the Pacific Electric right of way. The city began to grow. Nightclubs offered entertainment. Paul Helms began to build his famous Helms Bakeries in 1930 on Washington Boulevard, north-east of Western Stove. 

By 1935, the Army Corps of Engineers stabilized the meandering La Ballona Creek with concrete sides. No annexations occurred during the 1930s, a reflection of the Great Depression. During World War II, Hal Roach Studios became Fort Roach, a producer of military training films. Western Stove produced parts for the war effort for the business to survive. 

In 1945, the president of the Chamber of Commerce was Adolph Steller. He owned a hardware store on Main Street (now Stellar Hardware). His Chamber responsibilities included active promotion of an industrial area located on former Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes land called "The Hayden Tract." Sam Hayden, the developer, was a transplanted glass manufacturer from the east. Local newspaper headlines read "Factories Coming Here in New Development." 

The new Hayden Tract abutted Western Stove, which by 1947 was celebrating its silver anniversary. It had grown from two small buildings and 20 employees to a manufacturing concern with 720 employees on 11 acres. By 1949, the 40-acre Hayden Tract, adjacent to Western Stove, was a 60+ lot subdivision of "modern reinforced concrete buildings" and the Citizen Newspaper went on to proclaim it as "one of the finest in the world." It was designed to enlarge Culver City's economic base to grow the city even more. Business owners gave easements on their properties to the railroad for spur tracks, which were designed to enhance the manufacturer's freight car access to the Pacific Electric Railway at its eastern edge. 

As with most developments, the tract map is filed, with the streets named by the developer. Sam Hayden filed the Hayden Tract on March 14, 1946. 

The Hayden Tract enhanced Culver City's economic base and offered jobs to locals. As the manufacturing plants thrived, so did they wane. A transition occurred as the trains no longer stopped to load and drop goods. The MTA maintained its right of way. 

During the 1990s, Higuera residents decided to call themselves "Rancho Higuera" and blocked through traffic with neighborhood protection measures like diverters and traffic circles. The character of the Hayden Tract had changed. Gone are the clothing, plastic, pen and curtain manufacturers, sheet metal shops, and Mattel. Wholesalers moved in, but other buildings had deteriorated. The Culver City Redevelopment Agency, established in 1971, turned its attention to The Hayden Tract. Property owners Frederick and Laurie Smith began to redevelop their buildings with noted architect Eric Owen Moss. The revitalization is drawing noted technology, media and entertainment tenants. 

And so the story of Sam Hayden's tract continues, and even businesses, which were not a part of the original land tract, like the Landmark Industrial Tract nearby, (formerly Hal Roach Studios), enjoy the close proximity and name association. One has to wonder if the Hayden Tract would have been established if Western Stove had not been such a successful venture, a model lesson in adapting to the times. 

Section 18: The Culver Hotel (in the Culver Washington "X" below)

culverhotel Culver City

 The Culver Hotel opened in 1924, to September 4 headlines in the Culver City Daily News, "City Packed with Visitors for Opening of Culver Skyscraper." The six-story hotel, then named the Hotel Hunt, was called the "latest monument to his vision," his referring to the city's founder, Harry Culver. Culver's second floor office is now restored and used for meetings. Culver hired the Los Angeles firm of Curlett and Beelman to design the hotel. They specialized in large commercial structures like the Park Plaza Hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Union Oil buildings on West 7th in Downtown Los Angeles. Beelman went on to design the Eastern Columbia Building and the Thalberg Administration Building at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1938). 

The wedge-shaped Renaissance Revival style Culver Hotel is concrete and brick with mahogany and walnut interiors. It was built on property in the center of downtown, on what has been called "the shortest Main St. in the USA." Culver City's first movie theatre was located on this site, and its second floor served as the first city offices. The city moved their offices nearby to Van Buren Place, and a new movie theatre, the Meralta, was built on the site of today's Meralta Plaza (mid-block), to make way for this new landmark hotel. It was the tallest structure between the "pueblo" of Los Angeles and Abbot Kinney's resort of Venice. 

Over the years, the hotel has become recognizable from the many movies filmed here, including Laurel and Hardy shorts like Putting Pants on Philip,(1927). Numerous stars, like Red Skelton, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Ronald Reagan maintained part-time residences here. In an interview in 1989, at a Culver City Historical Society event at The Culver Studios, actor Jerry Maren, recalled this hotel as the home of the "Munchkins" when The Wizard of Oz was filmed in the late 1930s. Maren, who played the "Lollipop Kid," quipped that size allowed three to fit in a bed. He remembered arriving around midnight and was excited to awaken to a band playing in the morning. He and the rest of the "LITTLE PEOPLE" who were gathered together for the first time thought they were being honored until they looked out their windows to see the Armistice Day Parade going by. 

The hotel was once owned by John Wayne, who eventually donated it to the Los Angeles YMCA. Red Skelton is rumored to have owned at one time, too. Lou Catlett, general partner of Historic Hollywood Properties, rescued it from real estate speculators who allowed it to deteriorate. The Culver Hotel was restored to its original glory in the 1990s, the rooms renovated with individual baths and furnished with antiques. The halls are hung with nostalgic scenes from the movies. The hotel renovation and seismic retrofitting were in partnership with the Culver City Redevelopment Agency. The hotel's newest owner is TLI Business Exchange. 

The Culver Hotel is protected with "Landmark" status by the City of Culver City, under their historic preservation ordinance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.